Category Archives: Executive Transition

Posts in this category relate to best practices and lessons learned when a senior executive transitions into a new leadership role. Posts are address perspective of entering executive, her/his boss, and her/his direct reports.

Four Steps to a Smooth Transition

Below are four steps to smooth the transition out of a top role. It is critical to execute the steps in order. (See also: Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges):

Get Out Clean

Most leaders are not experienced at dismissing someone, especially senior people, so your departure may be chaotic and traumatic for your manager and even for the HR folks involved, though not nearly as much as for you. They will have decided on who will tell you that you are leaving, why, and what they want you to do now.

Once the writing is on the wall, it is best not to fight it or to ask for another chance. Draw them out with clarifying questions until you fully understand what is going on, their reasoning, and their intentions. Write down everything they say, word for word, to stay focused and to jog your memory later.

Collect and organize your thoughts before you say or do anything else, especially something you might regret later. Your first objective is to get the best terms you can on the way out. Maintaining civility is your best strategy.

Empty your office and desk, process pending expense reimbursement requests, read through your employment contract and severance agreements to be sure you know what is due you and do what you need to do to get it.

Study your employment agreement and the firm’s policies. Explore similar recent termination cases to discover how the organization has treated others who were asked to leave. In the absence of a policy, or if there is a policy but it is not consistently followed, the firm’s actual actions are their de facto policy.

Don’t be vindictive and don’t demand any more than you are due according to consistently enforced company policy, your employment contract, or by law, except as a negotiating strategy to be sure you get what you are due. Unless there is blatant cause, stay away from lawsuits because they take a lot of time, money and exact a huge emotional toll.

If the most generous terms ever offered are better than the terms proposed in your case, draw attention to the precedent and ask for an explanation as to why it should not be the same in your case. Explain that you don’t want anything special, just what is fair based on past practices. For example, if you are a long-term employee given two weeks notice per the firm’s written policy but someone else was given two weeks plus an additional week for every year of service, you have good grounds to ask for similar treatment.

Your settlement negotiations will be eased if there is something the firm wants from you, such as a promise not to work for a competitor, your agreement not to sue them for age or other forms of discrimination, non-solicitation of their employees for hire, or your promise not to say bad things about the firm to recruits, competitors, or the press.

Determine who is to represent the firm on your case and focus your energy primarily on working with them to get out clean. More than likely, you will have more time to spend on this than they do, so you can be well prepared for any discussions. Talk to others who have had similar experiences. Seek professional legal counsel only if you feel particularly vulnerable and if you have resources to cover the expense. Most of the benefit may be that your lawyer will be happy to talk to you, though at a hefty hourly rate.

Things to remember to ask for:

  • Your computer and any other equipment that has
    become part of your life.
  • Funds to cover executive coaching, help with writing your resume, legal fees, and outplacement services.
  • Personal files and supplies.
  • Agreed upon wording for a reference that describes you and your departure in the best possible light.
  • Long-term forwarding of emails.
  • Continued use of postal, e-mail, voice mail, and secretarial services for a while.
  • Cash settlement of accrued vacation, sick days, and overtime.
  • Information on continuing your health insurance for up to 18 months under COBRA laws.

Consolidate Lessons Learned

Before rushing off to find your next job, take time to think through what happened in this job to determine what there is to learn from the experience. Were there warning signs? What could you have done to prevent it? Get past blaming everyone else. Be clear about what you were trying to do and what you had done to make it that way. Study the case to determine what went right and what went wrong.

Write down what you have come up with and review it with a close friend or advisor or two to be sure you are being honest with yourself and that you are seeing everything there is to see.

Follow the methodology laid out in this post led by an outside, impartial executive coach.

Do Something Special

Treat yourself to something that you wouldn’t normally do. Take a golf weekend or a trip to the mountains … anything to give you the sense of having had a special, relaxing period between jobs.

Figure Out Next Steps

Determine what you want to do next and read this post: “Three Steps to Hiring Yourself an Employer.”

3 Truths and 6 Power Skills to Master Organization Politics

Organization politics make a lot of people uncomfortable. The untrained hope is that if politics are ignored, and if a job is done well, then well-earned rewards will come. Things rarely play out that way.

Organization politics is defined as anything done at work to increase the odds of success that has nothing at all to do with the work itself. Master executive coach and workplace psychologist, Dr. Dory Hollander, presents three unassailable truths about how things work in organizations and Six Power Skills for mastering the art of career enhancement. Continue reading 3 Truths and 6 Power Skills to Master Organization Politics

Transition Plan for CEOs

What To Do Between Your Exit and Next Position

We wrote a post about how to make a graceful exit (especially when it’s involuntary) that explored what steps to take when leaving your position. This post is the follow-up that dives into how to identify, assess, and consolidate lessons learned to find the right next job. We’ll explore three key steps to a successful transition plan for CEOs.

Continue reading Transition Plan for CEOs

Leader Exit

At an as yet unspecified time in the near future, the revered leader of a high-functioning team must exit, due to age, health, opportunity, or some other compelling reason.

The way the team sees it, the exiting leader must bring in a new leader or anoint someone from within, though no team member is clearly the one to take the reins in the eyes of the others. The team is anxious and wants to know what steps will be taken when to secure a new leader. Continue reading Leader Exit

Equity Rules

One of the hardest things for an owner/founder/operator to do is motivate others to perform and grow to their full potential. Watch how the  pride and endurance of a race horse transforms a struggling team into winners in this inspiring scene from Seabiscuit.

Movie rights provided by
Click to see a short inspiring clip from Seabiscuit.

Equity models are strategic because: Who gets What” defines “Who You Are!”  That is, the way owners share value with those who create it has a profound impact on the firm and the owners’ ability to attract, retain, and reward senior talent.

In his white paper, Equity Rules: Shaping powerful equity models via Sell.Pay.Convey, Mark Bronfman outlines the rules for using equity to secure a strategic advantage. His points are especially relevant to talent-driven ventures.

Private companies often use a variety of innovative tools, individually or in combination, to navigate and conquer major changes brought on by the urgent concerns of affordability, competency, and succession or “equity inflection points”. Continue reading Equity Rules