Q. I am a 28 year old working for a top regional manufacturing firm. Our COO recently got a job with the government, and as deputy, I assumed that I would succeed her. I even received numerous endorsements internally and externally. Now, rumour has it that the organisation is looking to hire a new COO from outside, with the only possible movement for me being an inter-departmental transfer. Have I been short-changed?
It is unclear why you seem to believe the discouraging whispers more than the previous positive endorsements that indicated you would succeed your supervisor.
Are rumours in your organisation often proven true? Have your endorsers changed song? Who is at the helm of driving your career trajectory? How have you prepared yourself to be ready for the succession? And how does your organisation approach succession planning?
An organisation may either appoint internal or external successors to replace existing incumbents. Organisations that are keen to establish robust leadership pipelines take the effort to deliberately nominate and develop understudies for succession. Effective succession planning therefore cannot be left to the ravages of corridor polls. For this reason, before you let rumour either dim or lift your hopes, you need to engage with stakeholders who can provide reliable information.
Speak to your supervisor concerning your suitability to succeed her. Perhaps she will share information concerning her succession or advice whether you need further development before the organisation can take a bet on you.
It might even be more fruitful to speak to her supervisor on the matter. Note that how you respond, whether or not you are appointed as the next COO, will influence stakeholders’ future decisions affecting your career. Consider also engaging the services of an executive coach to help with this phase of your career.
In addition, remember the inevitable role that politics play in organisations and mind not only your ability to read the writing on the wall, but also the faint matter between the lines.