We hear and read a lot about the first 90 days of a leader’s tenure—all the things you should and shouldn’t do.
We know those 90 days are important because they set the stage and determine people’s perceptions of their new leader. We know too that the best way to start a new leadership position is not to be reactive and immediately make massive changes but to take your time and focus on serving and empowering others.
The same is true for a leader who’s departing. The last 90 days are just as important as the first; how you leave is just as important as how you come in. Just as you wanted to make a good impression at the beginning, you want to leave with the respect and goodwill of your former colleagues.
It starts with thinking about your departure from your team’s point of view. Feeling left behind creates a reaction that can be surprisingly strong.
Here are some thoughts on easing the transition for those around you and securing a good legacy for yourself:
Keep lines of communication open. In stressful times, communicating with honesty, integrity and transparency is critically important. Keep the focus on the team, assigning new roles where you can and making sure systems are in good shape so things can function well without you. Remember that the first response of many on your team will be to wonder What will happen to me now? and make sure your actions, as well as your words, are reassuring.
Speed things up instead of slowing them down. Many leaders think of a transition as a time when things should slow down and decisions be delayed, but this is actually the perfect time to rev things up. Give people reason to stay engaged with their goals, to remember where they’re going and how they’re going to get there. Send a clear message that leaders are important but those who implement strategy and work toward attaining the goals are more important. Any organization’s greatest asset is the people who get the job done; leaders come and go, but the people who make it work are essential. Make sure you’re setting up the people you leave behind for success.
Prepare your team not for loss but for big gains. Satoru Iwata was a Japanese video game programmer and the fourth president and CEO of Nintendo. He is widely regarded as a major contributor in broadening the appeal of video games, and he led Nintendo through one of the most successful periods in its history. When he died, most people thought the company would go under. Instead, his employees honored their beloved leader by growing the company. Their shared goals were focused not on loss but on moving forward and working to keep his legacy alive.
It’s about empowerment, not ego. At the organizational level, your departure is not about you. Most people have only a superficial interest in why you’re leaving or what your departure means to you—they’re concerned primarily with their own feelings and a possibly uncertain future. But the best kind of leadership—in any season, not just during transitional times—happens when the leader focuses on empowering their team instead of personal issues. In the words of Lao Tzu, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”
As a coach of executive leaders around the world, I know that the last weeks a leader spends at an organization are incredibly important. If you want to leave those around you better than when you came, make sure your actions are focused on empowering them. When people feel their own inner power, in spite of the sadness and difficulty of a leader’s departure, they can still maintain the energy to move forward.
Lead from within: Whatever the stage in your relationship with your organization, give your best and be aware of the likely effects of your actions.
N A T I O N A L B E S T S E L L E R
The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness
After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.
Additional Reading you might enjoy:
- 12 Successful Leadership Principles That Never Grow Old
- A Leadership Manifesto: A Guide To Greatness
- How to Succeed as A New Leader
- 12 of The Most Common Lies Leaders Tell Themselves
- 4 Proven Reasons Why Intuitive Leaders Make Great Leaders
- The One Quality Every Leader Needs To Succeed
- The Deception Trap of Leadership
Photo Credit: iStock Photo
Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.