4 Exit Strategies For Leaders To Leave A Role Gracefully

When you’re leading a company, being responsible is indispensable. It’s the same when you’re leaving a company; it comes with responsibility. You don’t stop being a leader just because you resign as one. It’s imperative to navigate your transition journey smoothly, not just for yourself but your work community too.

Here’s how to leave a company the right way, with tips from leaders who have navigated these challenges firsthand.

Advanced notice is everything

Mapping out your next move is a prerequisite for leaving a leadership role. Chances are you already know the date of your exit and are aiming for that. Ensure that your exit plan isn’t a surprise exit for your colleagues. Informing those around you as early as possible makes your resignation move graceful and easier for the entire department. Apprise them of your management plan for the next month or weeks, depending on your notice period.

“Whether you’re being let go or you’re the one leaving, it’s important to talk about it in advance. I was lucky enough to have gotten advanced notice about my department’s elimination. Focus on what you can control as a leader. I made my team focus on what they could control too, and how they could best prepare themselves for that outcome. That’s how I found my love for coaching, too.” — Ashley Rudolph, business advisor at Work with Ashley R.

Leave detailed instruction

Work out a future plan of action for your team and your successor, especially if you wish to be contacted only when it’s vital. Different documents consolidating everything that can help the next person settle into the position and continue projects effortlessly can aid them tremendously after you leave the company. You can also prepare a FAQ-type document to answer the most important questions for the next leader—What are some challenges? Resources? Stakeholders’ concerns/pressures? Policies?

“I created a playbook—a one-stop shop if you will—with external partner contacts, status of projects, locations of important materials—and I reinforced my commitment to my team that while I would no longer be with the organization, I would still be rooting for them and available to them should they have any questions.” — Jamie Levin, founder of J Levin Communications.

Woman boxing a plant in an office.

Leaving a role doesn’t have to be a sad occasion.

Personal goodbyes are critical

Meeting with your team, in person or via Zoom, is always more appropriate and appreciated than just sending emails. Be prepared to answer their questions. Let them know the trajectory they’re required to follow and how they should be collaborating. Your well-thought system to oversee them should guide them properly. It’s important that, at least for the first few weeks, you’re not hard to reach. Communicate how you want to be contacted by them, what days and time frame after you leave.

“Connect with your team in group settings and also individually. I also had individual conversations with my team very early. It allowed us to maximize our preparation time, commit to doing it together and supporting one another throughout the process, and reinforced our sense of community within our small team that was one of the reasons we were so successful.” — Jamie Levin, founder of J Levin Communications.

Level up remaining team members

As a leader, it’s important that you train your team to manage goals, projects, clients, challenges, themselves and each other before you make your official exit. If someone or some people have to step up for you to step aside, it’s necessary to incorporate their duties when you’re with them so you can coach them for upleveling into their new roles efficiently and easily. This just doesn’t call for new tasks but also a new mindset. Discussing the future with them openly, honestly and kindly will be helpful.

“When my entire department was being let go, as a leader I implemented professional development. Each week the team met to discuss their projects, what they learned from them, what challenges they faced and how they overcame them. All critical pieces of information for nailing an interview process.” — Ashley Rudolph, business advisor at Work with Ashley R.

A blueprint that minimizes disruption as much as possible for the company, while also showing care for your team, can help you leave a leadership role the right way.

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