Training Your Replacement

I know this is a temporary gig for me and I am not here forever. I am here for a season, I have a job, and then somebody else is going to take it over.
-Chris Parrish

When selecting people for your board, keep in mind that it is all about the vision. Not everyone is going to agree with your vision. That does not mean they are wrong, but it may mean they are not the right person for the job. As you put people on the board or you bring people in to replace you, they have to buy into what you are doing. They have to agree that this is where your group needs to go and this is what must be done. If you have someone with a different vision, it steals momentum. Not that differing opinions are not appreciated, but when it comes to the vision, everybody needs be marching in-step in one direction. Potential leaders are going to be motivated based on your ability as a leader to impart that vision. Keep in mind, as a general rule, men are usually better equipped at seeing the big picture, establishing a vision and working toward it, than are women.

The following are some of the most important things you will ever do as you start trying to find someone to train to replace you.

Pray

As a leader, pray all the time for the leaders with whom you are working and for the leaders God is preparing. My wife and I always prayed for our board members and prayed constantly that God would show us who should replace us. Actually, I identified a guy during my first year of leadership, thinking, “There’s my man.” The first couple of times I planted seeds, he laughed, saying, “Life’s too short!” However, I was able to recruit him to be our treasurer and brought him in to replace me a year or two later. He is much smarter, much faster, and much better equipped organizationally than I will ever be. I knew that he was the guy to take the organization to the next level, but he did not know it the first time I talked to him, so we kept praying.

Remember the Vision

Constantly remind the people with whom you serve and the folks in your organization about the vision. Every time we were together as a board or as an assembly (including as many families as possible), there was always printed material distributed that reminded everyone of our vision. Why are we doing what we are doing? What is our desired end result? What are we trying to accomplish? What is our long-term goal? What are our short-term goals?

Identifying Leadership Qualities

As you begin to look for somebody to replace you, look for someone who does not need strokes. Home school leadership is not a place to get involved if a person is looking for strokes and wants applause and accolades. He is not going to get it! This is service—usually without recognition and often without thanks. Unfortunately, those are the facts. Welcome to the ministry! As you look for someone to replace you, one of the attributes you need to find is someone who is a little thick skinned; he will face some opposition.

Develop descriptions of different jobs that are involved in running your group. The leadership team is the support structure of the group, so make that job description as detailed as you can. It then boils down to basic people skills and understanding personality types, and then matching those with the job. In addition, as you are wooing someone in to take your place, you do not want any miscommunication; you do not want them to feel misled. You should be completely up front, so the new guy coming in can make an honest decision for himself of what is expected. Be brutally honest with people–you owe it to them. It prevents burnout and prevents them from getting frustrated.

Your support group and your board are no different in their needs and structure than any other organization. Whether it is a field trip, co-op, or a company, people are equipped to do certain jobs, and you need to find the people to do those jobs. If you surround yourself with the right people, it makes life easy. People do not get frustrated, do not get mad, and do not start to resent what they are asked to do when they fit the job. For example, when looking for someone to be your media contact, find somebody you want to represent the home school community, someone who will not embarrass the home school community. Can you imagine the news station with the microphone and camera and Joe Mountain-man coming out of the woods to talk to him about home schooling? “Yeah boy, we’re teachin’ our kids to read real good.” Obviously that is not the person you want. Put your best foot forward with the organization by getting a good public relations person.

Your replacement needs to be a mature, home school veteran—not necessarily in tenure but in experience, devotion, and commitment to what he is doing; he is not just trying this thing out. It is a lifestyle, and you need folks who are committed to it.

Find somebody better, faster, and smarter.

Keeping in mind the vision of the group, look for someone who can truly do a better job of executing and taking it to the next level than you can. If an organization is alive, it is going to grow. If it is going to grow, it is going to change, and you might not be the person to take it to that next level.

Training

Once you have identified your potential replacement, what do you do? A way to find out if the person is going to fit with the organization and the organization is going to fit with the person, is to let him volunteer for an assignment. See how he works. Face it, if you have a job that needs to be done, and if someone volunteers but does not take the ball and run with it, he is not the guy for the job. He does not really want to serve.

Allow yourself to go through that process of finding people who are really dedicated to what you are doing. They need to understand that it is work. Knowing that, volunteers do not show up thinking that it is going to be a picnic—no false expectations.

One way to train officers is to stagger board positions. Then there would never be a time in which a whole new group of officers would come in and serve. Whether it is a field trip, support group, co-op, or big company, if every eighteen to twenty-four months everyone in charge steps out, what does that do to leadership, direction, and momentum? It is gone; it all goes back to that vision. If everyone leaves at the same time, nobody has a clue as to where you have come from or where you are going.

If No One Wants to Do a Job, Maybe It Does not Need to be Done.

What happens if no one steps up to take a job? You need to seriously consider that perhaps that job does not need to be done.

For example, at one point we thought that our organization’s life blood was the big monthly meetings. We needed a person to set up these meetings, but nobody stepped forward. Therefore, the question became, do we delegate this task to one of the already overworked families?

We decided to let it go. For months, we did not have any monthly meetings, so that those who felt the need and the call were allowed to rise up and fill the position. We detailed very specifically the job description for this person. We were brutally frank about the expectations and what was going to be required, but we also stepped in right behind to help him do that. We asked, “What resources and help do you need? Can we bring somebody in to help you do this? Do you need help from outside organizations?”

Learn to Delegate

Dealing with obstacles to get the ultimate goal taken care of is probably an issue of delegating authority to people in order to accomplish tasks. We have all been part of meetings where we are going to try to set up a field trip or a book fair, and the whole discussion is bogged down with issues of what color should tablecloths be, etc. The mark of a good leader is that he can turn a job over to someone else and let it go. You may have to follow up with the person, especially if he has no track record.

Sometimes the best intentions do not always equate to the greatest execution. You are dealing with a volunteer army, and you cannot dock their pay, as much as you would like to. What are you going to do? To get through these things, as a team you commit early in the process that you are going to operate in grace. You are dealing with volunteers, but you need to decide early on that you are going to get through this together, you are going to find the right people, and you are not going to do this on your own.

“But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” What a perfect scripture for board structure—not doing things in the flesh, and not doing things out of your own desires and your own sense of what needs to be done! Let God direct your steps to the right people; He knows. God is not looking down, wringing His hands, saying, “Look at what’s happening to the organization.” He knows what is going on, and He will bring you the right people.
-Isaiah 40:31