With the median employee stay decreasing to approximately 5.5 years, it’s 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 don’t 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 “inheritance” 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 replacement’s umbrella to know what’s going on. Make sure that your team understands:
- The systems you’ve 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, you’re building a smooth transition.
2. Create a playbook.
If you’re “old school,” you can write out specific systems or protocols, or you can create a document. Depending on your company’s 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 that’s 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 don’t crumble the second you walk away.
3. Create a team presence, if possible.
If you’re 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 isn’t 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 It’s 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 you’re staying within the same company, it’s important that you don’t leave yourself open to constantly supporting him or her. While it can be difficult to see your systems or processes fall flat, it’s crucial that you keep your boundaries.
Leaders and executives don’t want to leave their teams stranded; it’s 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!