When a leader leaves your organization, even on amicable terms, it could prompt a significant upheaval in the department that they were a part of. Depending on how intrinsic they were to that department’s function, their departure may even shift the company’s operations.
For a business to weather this issue, the organization should try to achieve a smooth transition to the new leader. But how does a company ensure that both the new leader and the current staff will successfully adjust to this change? Below, eight entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council offer their best advice on how businesses can ensure a smooth transition of duties for all involved.
Young Entrepreneur Council members discuss making leadership transitions easier on all involved.
Photos courtesy of the individual members.
1. Start The Conversations Early
I have regular discussions with many of our leadership team members asking about their long-term career plans and how our company fits into them. When we have had a senior leader leave, I knew it was coming months in advance because of these types of conversations, so we had time to plan a transition and train up another person for their role. Creating an environment where people trust you enough to talk openly about their future plans allows for much better succession planning. – Kelsey Raymond, Influence & Co.
2. Discuss Longer Transition Terms
In terms of promoting staff to a leadership role, discuss longer transition terms to allow for sufficient time to adequately sort things out. In the meantime, implement a business process management system (a professional one or even a mind map or a set of documents) outlining the responsibilities and key activities each role is in charge of. This makes it easier for a new employee to step in and catch up. Lastly, appoint someone entrusted who can step in. Either promote internally within the existing team under the supervision of the former lead or temporarily assign another leader to the corresponding position to keep trust and authority in place. – Mario Peshev, DevriX
3. Communicate The Project Handoffs
Most of the time, transitions fail when departing employees aren’t working closely enough with other staff to delegate their workload and explain all the steps required to fulfill the job in their absence. Documenting these processes and building out more standard operating procedures makes it even easier for folks to ask questions to quickly fill in knowledge gaps so business can continue as usual. Often, this fosters more teamwork and collaboration too, which further strengthens bonds and morale as team members know that even departing staff are committed to the ongoing success of the company. – Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep Mattress
4. Be Transparent And Enthusiastic
When our Director of Operations left the company at a crucial period, I made sure to overcommunicate and be as transparent as possible as to what was happening, all the while bringing enthusiasm and excitement for her replacement. This helped build internal confidence in my team while going through the transitional period. Overall, I had a “door is always open” policy, which helped with any concerns. The transition has been surprisingly easy and supported. – Rachel Beider, PRESS Modern Massage
5. Have The Leader Choose Their Replacement
If possible, include the leader in the transition to help select and hire the next person. This doesn’t work for every case, but if it’s a truly amicable split, their knowledge and insights are going to be very important to pass onto the next person, so it would be great if they can at least interact with the next potential hire. A truly great senior executive who is leaving amicably will also care about the company and want to help hire the right person, so they can help facilitate that process, especially if the other senior executives aren’t completely qualified to be hiring for that position. It’s even better if there is somebody already on the team whom everyone likes who’s stepping up into the role. – Andy Karuza, LitPic
6. Provide Shadowing Opportunities
To ensure that there’s a smooth transition when a senior leader leaves, it’s crucial for shadowing to take place. The person taking over their position should have the proper training in place so they know their duties and fulfill their role with confidence. Handing someone a new role without much notice will likely lead to unexpected issues. It’s important to equip staff with the information they need to succeed once a senior leader leaves the company so it stays afloat and continues to succeed. Proper planning and preparation ensure that the transition happens smoothly and without a hitch. – Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
7. Appoint A ‘Transition Leader’
Appointing a “transition leader” to gather critical information on processes, current issues and future expectations from the leader that is exiting is a great way to make sure nothing is lost in the shuffle. This also means you have a point person for any questions from the remaining team and the new leader once they are hired. Having the same person communicating to existing team members and their new leader acts to bridge the gap and ensure a smooth transition while minimizing confusion and frustration. – Josh Awad, Flywheel Commerce
8. Delegate The Work Properly
This actually happened last February, when a beloved leader had to leave the company. It was hard to find an adequate replacement to juggle her duties, but the team worked hard to make up for the dearth of guidance within regular operations. My team and I have learned that the key to a smooth transition is properly delegating the work that other employees will perform after the leader leaves. This leader was managing multiple projects with grace and had a unique skill set. During her last month, she assigned these projects to other employees, and they used her guidance to complete them. Have a plan in place for the transition to ensure the completed work satisfies clients. – Duran Inci, Optimum7