Planning your legacy
Once you've made the decision to leave your job, it's tempting to start winding down and leaving the difficult work to your successor. This could be a mistake. Most industries and sectors are very incestuous - you'll find that you come across the same people several times in your career. Reputation management is more important than ever before because social networks mean that you'll never really be out of touch with the people you've worked with.
The ideal situation is that on your last day people are saying, "I wish she/he wasn't leaving” rather than, “good riddance”. Assuming you're working your notice period, here are some pointers for making the most of your last 100 days. If you're likely to be escorted out of the building the moment your resignation letter hits your boss's desk, start this process a few months before you plan to leave.
Branding is so much more than a logo (as your marketing department probably likes to tell everyone). Think of it as a set of values you stand for. When people mention your name, what do people associate with you, for example “she's very organised”, “he doesn't quite have the gravitas he needs”, “she's always playing political games” or “he's a good manager”.
Shifting how people perceive you can take time - think about how long brands spend trying to convince you they're safe/reliable/stylish/innovative and so on before you start to see them differently. People make judgements about your brand based on their view of you, which can sometimes be wrong or based on incorrect information.
How can you change how people see you?
Write down the words people would associate with your brand right now (not how you'd like them to think of you). What are they basing these perceptions on? Now write down how you'd like them to think of you and what you'd need to do differently for these perceptions to change.
It can be useful to think about the image your want to project in your new role, and start practising now. For example, if your new job is a promotion, start acting the part and look at your wardrobe to see whether how you 'package' yourself fits with how you want to be seen in your new role.
Make friends, not enemies
When someone suggests you 'bury the hatchet' with that colleague who you've clashed with, do you secretly think, “Yes, and I'd bury it in their skull”? No matter what's gone on before and how justified you feel in disliking this person, it really is time to put it behind you. If you don't do this it will drain you in the long term - particularly if your paths cross again in the future.
You don't have to be best friends or even like each other, but find a way to work together. Try to find something positive about them that you like and focus on that. It can make a huge difference if you acknowledge their strong points (even if they annoy you), for example, “Thanks Sarah, what I like about you is you're always so organised”.
Pick your battles carefully
Even though it seems like an eternity now, 100 days can fly by. There's only so much you can achieve in that time. You probably don't have time to win the war, so choose the battles you want to fight and if it's not critical to your job or to your successor that you win, find a way to back down gracefully.
In your exit interview, focus on the positive of your role, your colleagues and the organisation. You might be seething inside and can't wait to leave the building, but making your views known quite as strongly as you feel them could come back to bite you on the backside. If you've sat on the other side of the table, you'll know that on the one hand you need to understand what's made this person leave and on the other you can sometimes be left cringing when you know you'll need to report back what's been said (and wishing the person hadn't been so frank).
Get some quick wins
Do you want to leave a trail of unfinished projects behind you or go out on a high? Most people will say the latter, so let's focus on that.
Work with your team to identify the projects you can get finished together and once they are completed, make sure everyone knows. The chances are you're not going to be able to do everything alone, so enlist the help of your colleagues. After all, is it easier for them to get it finished while you're still around or wait until the new person joins and wait for them to get up to speed?
Focus on priorities
When you're aiming for your quick wins, make sure they're the right ones. No one's going to congratulate you for sorting out the filing cabinet if the critical jobs aren't done.
Now is the time to sit down with your boss and make some decisions on what is important and what can wait. Sometimes bosses will tell you everything's important, so start to categorise them into:
- Important and urgent – these need to be done now
- Important but not urgent – things that matter but can be done later (careful these don't get put off until they are urgent)
- Urgent but not important – someone's chasing for something that in the scheme of things don't matter much (but they might matter to them)
- Not urgent or important – the kinds of tasks that no one would miss if they weren't done. Get rid of these as much as possible. These tend to be tasks and projects which have been inherited from a time when they were important.
Build your network
Get your social networking connections up to date. LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com) is a great way to stay in touch with people you've worked with and also gives them the opportunity to give you a reference publicly. You might not feel comfortable asking your colleagues or suppliers to give you a reference, so how about writing one about them first? Once you're connected on LinkedIn write an 'endorsement' for that person. They'll get an email telling them what you've written and they need to approve it before it will appear. After they do that, LinkedIn will ask them if they'd like to return the favour and write one about you - much less pushy.
You can upload your contacts from Outlook onto LinkedIn. If you're not ready to connect with everyone and there's a chance you'll be asked to leave the building as soon as you resign, export your Outlook contacts and email the file to yourself or sync it with your phone. You never know when you might want to reconnect with someone - particularly if you're taking a senior role elsewhere and want to bring your suppliers with you.
Plan your handover
Don't leave things in a mess for your successor. If possible, arrange a time for the two of you to go through all your current projects and train them on how everything works.
Document how you do things as you do them and you’ll be creating an invaluable manual for the department. There might be things you do that you need to show someone. You can use screen capture software to video what you’re doing – including mouse movements and clicks. Use Jing (www.jingproject.com) to record videos lasting a few minutes or for longer tutorial videos use Camtasia (www.camtasia.com). You can also record a voiceover to explain what you’re doing and why.
Start inviting your direct reports to meetings so they are fully briefed on everything you’re working on and keep your boss in the loop at all times.
100 days will fly by very quickly, so take the time now to work out your exit plan and you’ll be able to kick back and relax at your leaving drinks!
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