By: Catherine Saar & Dianne Dickerson
Spring and summer are often a time of great change, and an important change to navigate well in any season, is a change in leadership. With all the news about “the great resignation,” it is easy to see that leaders at all levels are coming and going these days. Creating a “warm handoff” to an incoming leader can really set them up for success. At Integrated Work, we have learned first-hand how helpful it is for a leader who is moving on to assist the transitions process by setting the stage for a lasting relationship and a warm, and pleasant goodbye.
If you or someone in your organization is moving on, we have some thoughts about how to do that well. From our perspective, it pays to develop graceful transitions, especially if they happen frequently. We found that doing so maintains good relationships that are often very valuable for all parties far into the future.
At Integrated Work, we have excellent examples of grace-filled successions that have supported ongoing relationships with departing individuals. A little over two years ago, our Founder, Jessica Hartung, stepped away with very deliberate timing and with such care and grace, our organization was strengthened by it.
First, she found someone fabulous, Jennifer (Jen) Simpson, our current CEO, to take her place. Jessica then took the time to give Jen context and background over several months while she continued to play a key role at Integrated Work. At the same time, Jessica was transparent about her plans and the fact that she had a generous timeline for the transition, there were no surprises for Jen or the team. Her path was certain, even if some of the details and timing were not completely known.
As Jen and the team got to know each other, it made sense to transition more of Jessica’s responsibilities to Jen. During the transition, Jessica and Jen stayed connected sorting out details in the background and sharing information the team needed to know.
Over the course of many months, Jessica stopped attending business meetings while continuing to attend company social events. Even now that her transition is complete, Jessica’s departure leaves us with a warm and solid feeling. We frequently gather with Jessica at celebrations and appreciate her leadership maturity in planning her departure with such awareness and grace.
More recently, Anna Crittenden, Senior Consultant, has decided to move on after 21 years of being a powerful contributor to Integrated Work. If you know Anna, you know how lucky we are to have had her and how much she will be missed. Our staff is a close group and anyone leaving is a big deal, especially someone as talented and as kind as Anna.
Anna gave us plenty of notice and context. The change was a good one for her and she let us know about her transition and why it was important for her to make it. She also negotiated a longer transition with her new employer to give us time to find a replacement so she could help with onboarding our new hire through a complex set of responsibilities.
Jen helped set the stage for this kind of transition with her perspective that Integrated Work is permeable and therefore easy for folks to remain close-in, even after leaving employment. For example, we work with an “Extended Network” of talented consultants who partner with us on a variety of projects. Often, incoming team members have been part of this network before joining fulltime. Additionally, individuals leaving the organization may stay connected through this network on a part time basis should they so choose.
Anna’s thoughtful and generous planning gave us time to hire her successor, the wonderful Sarah Baig. Anna has provided excellent training and mentorship to Sarah during this transition and helped to set Sarah up for success in her new role.
In both cases, Jessica and Anna considered the impact their leaving would have on others and took steps to make it work well for themselves as well as for the team. They made sure to allow sufficient time and thoughtful knowledge transfer and made sure those coming after them had what they needed to be successful. Taking the long view of relationships and tending to them in times of transition makes a powerful difference.
We know how fortunate we are to have had so much time with Jessica and Anna, and we trust that we will remain connected with these wonderful friends as life goes on.