Moving On: How to Prep a New Executive to Take Over

With the median employee stay decreasing to approximately 5.5 years, itís hard to imagine that anyone will stay in a single position for their whole career. While older generations, specifically the Baby Boomers, are known for their company loyalty and career stability, younger generations are career-hopping more and more. Combined with the global market and easier access to new positions and companies, even high-level executives and leaders can find new, better positions with ease.

If you find yourself looking for a new executive position, are switching to a different company, or even being promoted within your current company, you may be worried about all the loose ends your vacant seat will create. Odds are, you had a mess left on your desk when you were hired in your current position and donít want to leave that sort of legacy yourself.

To avoid leaving a mess for your replacement, you should start planning for your exit as soon as you begin thinking about leaving. If you are recruited by another company unexpectedly, you can still plan for your last day and organize your ďinheritanceĒ to keep the company afloat while the new executive takes over.

Here are the top three tasks you need to perform to prep for executive handoff:

1. Brief your team.

Whether you have a small team or a large team, you need everyone who will be under your replacementís umbrella to know whatís going on. Make sure that your team understands:

  • The systems youíve created (and how they work)
  • The protocols for onboarding a new employee
  • How to keep things going while the new executive learns the ropes
    This style of open communication is going to make your team a lot less skittish about your departure and much more willing to work with the new executive. By helping to establish this person as part of the team, youíre building a smooth transition.

2. Create a playbook.

If youíre ďold school,Ē you can write out specific systems or protocols, or you can create a document. Depending on your companyís infrastructure, there may be other task planning or organizational software that the new executive can learn to use. Whatever tools you use, make sure your replacement knows:

  • Where to direct their questions
  • How to access all previous files, documents, information, etc.
  • What is most important (open projects, looming deadlines, etc.)
    Everyone is overwhelmed on their first day on the job, and thatís especially true for someone entering such a vast network of responsibilities. Respect all the progress you and your team have made by ensuring that things donít crumble the second you walk away.

3. Create a team presence, if possible.

If youíre part of the team that interviews and hires your replacement, add a step to the onboarding process. Ask your potential new executive to work with you for a day or even a week, if you can, so they can see your process, meet your team, and understand the basic goings-on within the department. This will also help your team and peers get comfortable with your replacement, and even get a head start on the onboarding process.

If this prior-to-hire team isnít viable, you can overlap their hire date with your end date to properly onboard, train, and help your successor get comfortable in their new role. This also gives you stronger confidence when you do leave, as you know the team and your replacement are prepared.

When Itís Time to Go, Let it Go

The final task in your executive handoff is to let it go when your time to leave comes. While you may have contact with your successor if youíre staying within the same company, itís important that you donít leave yourself open to constantly supporting him or her. While it can be difficult to see your systems or processes fall flat, itís crucial that you keep your boundaries.

Leaders and executives donít want to leave their teams stranded; itís just not in their nature. But with the proper training, onboarding, and preparation, you can give your executive replacement the best chance of success.

Now you get to address the projects, tasks, and fires that someone else has left on your new desk!