I am not particularly one for quotes or phrases because to me they seem like words that are uttered that have no follow-through or execution. That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate a good quote every now and again. But they seem to have become commonplace in today’s workforce and it honestly drives me crazy.
Recently I have heard the phrase “Next Man Up” expressed almost as if it were a strategy in development. Being a former athlete, I’ve heard this phrase throughout my life. And more often than not it was stated to give a quick jolt of confidence to the team and fan base. In my opinion, the reason why this phrase is so often over-used and under-executed is due to the poorly fulfilled act of intentionally developing talent.
“Next Man Up” is not a development strategy. It isn’t something that just rolls off the tongue without purpose. It is, instead, a call to action. It is something your team has to live and buy into. There has to be a commitment to preparation and development. And this commitment is two-sided; one side is the emerging leader and the other is the decision maker.
There is no doubt this strategy sounds good. And there may even be times it works (trust me, this doesn’t happen often). At Solutions 21, however, we find businesses around the world negatively affected by this use of phrase and lack of action. We have witnessed the crippling of an entire organization when a key player goes down, albeit from retirement, job change, or dismissal because no one was ready to take the reins when the time came. Now, I’m not saying this happens with every business that has executives that spout this phrase but believe me, it has happened.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that this is a simple math equation of replacing one for another. Maybe it takes three or four to replace one. And if this is the case (trust me, this does happen often), these new leaders require extensive development and intentional customization of human capital. And, per usual, I am NOT talking about three day seminars and online learning! Which, by the way, I can’t believe we still have to discuss in 2016. I am talking about real-world, practical development. The kind of development you can’t teach through a lecture or visiting with a mentor once every few months.
I have spoken with business owners and executives in my profession for quite some time now and their number one concern is always talent development and succession planning. Always. Whether it’s growth-driven or retirement-driven, it is impossible to over-develop someone or have too much talent. Seriously. Have you ever heard anyone complain about that?!
At the end of the day, it’s the people that keep a business profitable. Not technology. Not brands. Not products. PEOPLE. And for whatever reason, we continue to miss the mark when it comes to development. Yes. It takes time. And many people still believe in instant-gratification. (Eye roll) But the idea that business owners and executives do not invest in their biggest asset presents an area of concern for me.
The point I am trying to make is that quotes and phrases aren’t my favorite for a number of reasons. If you are a fan, however, and are going to continue to use them, don’t just say them. Live them. Allow them to become a part of your culture.
If you want to use the phrase “Next Man Up,” make sure you are doing everything in your power to prepare those next people. Because when (not if) that time comes, your words will be put to the test. And if you haven’t put in the work and intentionally developed your emerging leaders, you run the risk of exposure and losing buy-in from you team, which is another topic in and of itself for another time.