Friday, 22 January 2016

Moving on

So I'm leaving my current organisation. I'm moving on. In this blog I'll look at some of the emotional and practical implications of this.

I've been in my current organisation, in its various forms, for nearly 12 years, and aside from the last ten months I spent the other eleven years in the same (but evolving) role. It's longer than I've been anywhere else. At the end of February I take up the role of HR Director at Trafford College, one of the leading Further Education colleges in the north west.

Telling your organisation that you're leaving is not something that is supposed to happen regularly across your professional lifetime. In my career, a mere 19 years, this will be only the fourth time I've done this, and the first in 12 years. So it's not something you're supposed to be good at. Not something you're supposed to know how to do properly.

And yet…

…we all have this vision of ourselves walking, John Wayne style, into our managers office, giving a grandiose speech or maybe having some controlled explosion, slamming a piece of paper down on their desk that tells them exactly where they can stick their employment relationship, and walking out like you've just won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, perhaps only stopping to kiss that girl you have always fancied on the way out.

Or is that just me?

Well, let me tell you, it's nothing like that. My notification to my manager came in a very tame, one line email. Nothing sexy, nothing explosive, and almost apologetic.

It seemed somehow anticlimactic.

And so it should, because leaving ones employer is a big step. Aside from leaving ones partner or spouse, it's probably the biggest breakup you'll go through, and can often have a similar impact.

In my case, although I joined my current organisation thinking I'd only stay 3 years and then ride off, arrogantly, into the sunset, I've stayed a lot longer and until the last year I couldn't envisage any circumstance that would cause me to even think about moving on. The organisation had grown, changed and developed and taken me with it. I felt at home.

But things have a habit of changing and so do ones feelings towards your loved ones. If you've been through a divorce, like I have, you'll recognise how one day you're happily in love and the next you don't even recognise the person next to you in bed. Maybe I'll explore that concept more another time.

But sometimes these things happen and all of a sudden I wanted out. As luck would have it, there was a voluntary redundancy programme underway at the time and I was able to request this and had it approved. My plan at this point was to consider my options but in all likelihood I was going to go self employed. I'd worked out a business plan, and a business name. I'd figured out what kinds of services I'd offer and to whom. And I had a good feeling about it all.

But what I couldn't figure out is whether my good feeling about it all stemmed from what I was running towards (self employed freelance work) or what I was running away from (current work). And then I saw a good job advertised, went for it, was offered it, and suddenly faced a choice. I have obviously taken the job, having concluded that my happy feeling was coming more from running away from something than running towards it. But now I've got the happy feeling also of running to something I want to do, somewhere I want to be.

So I ought to be happy, right?  Well, mostly.

And that's because it's still an emotional wrench to leave somewhere you've spent most of your career to start afresh in a new environment. It's a bit nerve wracking, really, and no textbook or webinar or conference or qualification I've done, not one piece of learning I've had, adequately prepares you for this or even comes close to describing it.

Type in a Leaders First 100 Days and you'll get hundreds of results on Google. You can look at what President Obama did in his first 100 days and get lots of advice from other notable leaders about what they think you should do. So I've got lots of advice from multiple sources about what I need to achieve in my first 100 days, and I'm mulling a lot of it over. The important things are about visibility, engagement and taking your time it seems. I will cover this in a later blog also.

But type into Google a Leaders Last 100 Days and you'll get few results that are any use. Yes, there are some pieces of advice, but not many. Why is this? Is it because fewer people are concerned with ending a relationship than they are with starting one? Surely final impressions of a leader count just as much as first impressions?

So I'm also mulling over the important things in my final 100 days. The important pieces of advice are to prepare any successor(s), continue to operate and make decisions as if you were staying (as opposed to winding down) and to consider the legacy you want to leave behind, even if said legacy isn't apparent in the short term. I'm also focusing on smiling a lot more, and connecting with people on a more emotional level -some of these people may actually miss me when I'm gone.

I've also concluded that it's right to have a leaving do or two, so have been arranging these. I didn't have them when I left my last two places but somehow it feels right this time. Other things I have to arrange are things like a new car to replace my company car (done), new phone/tablet to replace the company versions I will hand back (done) and thinking who I need to inform of new contact details etc (not done yet).

And I'm having no break in between. I finish at one place on the Friday, I start at Trafford on the Monday. Mostly this is because I've no leave left to take but mostly because I don't want to dwell on things at home for a week or so -I'm already excited about getting started at Trafford so the sooner the better from my perspective.

I'll be starting anew. It's an opportunity that comes our way rarely, and I want to make the most of it. It feels strange and exciting and scary all at once, and after 12 years in one place it's probably more needed than I realise.

I may talk some more about my preparations for starting anew, but for now it's getting slowly closer and becoming more real every day.

It's an exciting time.

What's your experience and/or advice for surviving your last 100 days and making the best start in your first 100 days?

Till next time…


Ps if you are going to the HR Directors Summit in Birmingham 2-4 February then why not come along to my talk Bracing for Change -Preparing your organisation for a transformational shift… And say hello!

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