I’m going to be morbid for a second, but I need you to bear with me: What would happen if you died today?
I’m sorry; I know that’s bleak. But I promise I have a point, and it’s this: Does your staff and your predecessor understand the “why” behind your rec center and the vision that runs it?
I’ve been talking about “why” quite a lot, if only because I’ve been reading Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why.” However, in the latest chapter he dove into the founders of different companies and how when they left, the crap hit the fan. Often, it was because the “why” was lost. So, he offered up the School Bus Test:
“The School Bus Test is a simple metaphor. If a founder or leader of an organization were to be hit by a school bus, would the organization continue to thrive at the same pace without them at the helm? So many organizations are built on the force of a single personality that their departure can cause significant disruption. The question isn’t if it happens — all founders eventually leave or die — it’s just a question of when and how prepared the organization is for the inevitable departure. The challenge isn’t to cling to the leader; it’s to find effective ways to keep the founding vision alive forever,” wrote Sinek.
So, that brings me to my question again: What would happen if you died today? While a rec center is different than a business – and it typically isn’t built around a person – it can fall into the same trap. If you had an amazing rec director in the past who really embodied what it stood for, you can feel the effects when he or she leaves. The why needs to be bigger than a single person. It needs to flow down through the ranks, especially if you’re heading out the door.
Sinek explained this happens through a solid predecessor; and it’s not about his or her resume — it’s about if they get your why or not.
“To pass the School Bus Test, for an organization to continue to inspire and lead beyond the lifetime of its founder, the founder’s why must be extracted and integrated into the culture of the company,” wrote Sinek. “What’s more, a strong succession plan should aim to find a leader inspired by the founding cause and ready to lead it into the next generation. Future leaders and employees alike must be inspired by something bigger than the force of personality of the founder and must see beyond profit and shareholder value alone.”
Are you the only one who understands the why? If the answer is yes, it is probably time to change that answer.