Leaving your job? How to plan a great exit

Written by
Changeboard Team

04 Mar 2011

04 Mar 2011 • by Changeboard Team

Planning for the future

So, you are planning for your exit. Perhaps you have been tapped on the shoulder for an internal promotion, perhaps you are looking to retire or sell your business or have been headhunted to join another organisation. Whatever the scenario - what you do, how you behave and what you say in those last 100 days will be your organisation’s and employees’ lasting memory of you and, be under no illusion, will eclipse all the other great things that you have done up to that point.

What can be an exciting time for you, thinking about the future and getting ready to move on, can be a time of real uncertainty for your employees and your actual resignation or announcement can be a body blow to your organisation. So, if you don’t care and just intend to work out your notice period and enjoy pretending to be busy - time to stop reading this article. However, if you care about the legacy you leave, the shape of the business the next executive is inheriting from you and the people that work in your organisation, the following tips may come in useful.

Be discreet about your departure

As much as you will be bursting to tell people what your plans are and how happy you are, until you have worked out the messaging and have the right stakeholders engaged, do not tell anyone that you are leaving.

News leaks and the rumour mill will catch you off guard, forcing you to either deny something (which then turns out to be true, thus damaging your credibility) or come out with the truth too soon and in the wrong order of events.

Don't burn bridges with colleagues

The days of moving on from an organisation and never coming across ex-colleagues/employees have gone forever. The rise in social media sites such as LinkedIn & Facebook mean that your new job, team and organisation are only a click away from your old ones and the two will cross over.

Regardless of how much you may want to smugly tell your current organisation or boss that you’re off, keep it professional, courteous and positive as it will catch-up with you, and the gossip mill may even beat you in to your new role.

Get to know your successor

The best executives always know who their replacement is within their organisation. They have identified them, mentored them, trained them and thus paved the way to a clean and happy exit whereby they leave the ship in safe hands.

If you are reading this now, thinking about moving on and you don't have a no.2 that you are developing, find one now.

Keep visible - don't go AWOL

When you make your announcement to leave, everyone will pat you on the back to your face but many will be less kind behind your back when speaking with other colleagues. They will expect you to slow down, not care and be working less hours than usual. Don’t prove them right.

Be as passionate, committed and hardworking as you always are, right until your final day. Let your last impression be one of the nay-sayers being proved wrong and the conversations being had behind your back being about how driven and committed you are to the organisation.

Reasons for leaving

Be sure about the reasons you're leaving and stick to them. Plan your messaging as you would an interview with a journalist. Expect people to ask: “what’s the real reason you’re going?” and don’t be tempted to drop your guard, with anyone, and move away from your story.

Again, in no time at all, the rumour mill kicks back in to force and over-rides all your carefully crafted announcements, damaging your credibility.

The final goodbye

Take time to say goodbye personally to colleagues, they will appreciate the effort and it allows you to exchange alternative contact details for people you wish to remain in touch with. With regards to your final swan song, remind them of your legacy in a respectful way. A heartfelt communication to the wider business detailing “when I arrived, we were here, now that I am leaving, we have moved mountains, delivered x and improved y to z”.

Thank them for each and every contribution they have made to making the business this successful and assure them that they are continuing on that great path into the future and you wish them all the very best. Take more time over this communication than any other you have ever written and it will stand the test of time and be your legacy and their lasting memory of you.