How do you exit your job with grace?
You’re on to the next thing. Perhaps it was your call. Maybe not.
Maybe you’re happy. Perhaps you’re not.
In fact, perhaps “not happy” is an understatement.
But it’s not about you. It’s about the mission and your team.
And the important work ahead in this time of crisis, ambiguity, and change.
How will you prepare your successor to do what must be done next – without you?
Because the mission is bigger than you.
Observations From a Few Folks Watching
When Karin was in HR managing talent and 9-box-grid placements, it was always fascinating to see what leaders did the moment AFTER the announcement that they were moving to a new role internally or externally.
Some couldn’t transition fast enough. Like a bat out of hell, suddenly they had new MITs (most important things), new people to meet, teams to build.
They left their old team to figure it out, demoralized, wondering how they would keep it all going until the next guy was announced. And, quite frankly, wondering: If the work was so important, how could their boss change priorities so quickly?
When these leaders sabotaged their successor or raced off to their next gig without a care in the world, it said a lot about them and their priorities.
How to Exit Your Job With Grace
1. Check in with your team.
Thank them. Remind them why their work matters. Ensure everyone has a clear path forward during the transition.
2. Make information easy to find.
You know where you put it, but can anyone else find it? Make a list of all the things that are “just in your head.” You worked hard to gain that insight, that process, that tool. Progress depends on not replicating work you’ve already done, but building on it.
3. Don’t insult “anyone or anything.”
We love this advice from Business News Daily:
Regardless of whether it’s true, show that you regret leaving such wonderful people behind. The most important part of a successful job exit is to avoid throwing anyone under the bus. Even if you’re not leaving on the best terms, don’t play the blame game. You don’t want to ruin your career by trash-talking your former colleagues or managers.
4. Help your successor build relationships with key players.
The hardest part of any transition is building vital relationships, which takes time. Can you leave your successor with a people map? Here’s who you go to for what and why it matters. Here’s who cares most about these issues. Watch out for this land mine …
5. Share your lessons learned.
If your successor steps in the same landmines as you, you haven’t done your job, no matter how good that feels.
6. Be available, but distant.
You’ve prepared your previous team for their future, given your successor all the tools and information you can, and have moved into your next role. Avoid the temptation to react to how the next leader does things differently (and they will). If your successor has questions, be available to respond, but not engage. If team members who you were close with call to complain or ask for your intervention – don’t. Rather, coach them on how to navigate the change and have positive discussions with their new leader.
7. Be prepared to feel the change.
When David transitioned out of one executive role and into another, Steve, a mentor who owned a venture capital firm, offered this wisdom: “Give yourself time and space to say goodbye and feel the loss. They were good people. Your next team will be great too – and you’ll be a better leader for them if you feel the change for yourself.”
The ability to exit your job with grace and dignity is essential for your long-term influence. You’ll build a reputation as a leader who leaves everyone and everything better than you found it.
We’d love to hear from you: What is one step you’ve seen leaders take to exit their job with dignity, grace, and effectively set up their past and future teams for success?