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CEO & Executive Succession Planning

Leave smart Land well

2/28/2014 Kelly O. Kay
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Leave smart Land well


Poorly handled voluntary departures occur with surprising frequency. When it comes to moving from one company to another, otherwise astute executives often make fundamental mistakes that cast a cloud over their leaving. The consequences can range from distasteful to disastrous: hurt feelings, lasting resentment from former colleagues, blame for harming the company, a protracted and painful exit, failure to make the transition as planned, and – worst of all – a reputation for thoughtlessness that can be hard to shake.

No two departures are identical, and executing a graceful exit is a complex and nuanced process that can vary by company, personalities and a host of other factors. However, based on our experience advising top executives on their careers, as well as a series of in-depth executive interviews we conducted about such transitions, we believe that a successful exit can increase significantly by adhering to these three guidelines:

  • Gain clarity about the move.
  • Make connections with the appropriate people.
  • Deepen commitment to the chosen course of action.

These “three Cs” – clarity, connection, commitment – are practical and nearly simultaneous steps in a dynamic and self-reinforcing process. Clarity about why you are leaving leads to a clear view of the connections you need to make with people who are affected by your move. Making those connections helps engender real commitment to your decision. Deepening that commitment imparts further clarity, and so on, in a virtuous circle.

Some executives, instinctively grasping these principles, conduct themselves accordingly and leave successfully. But there is no reason to rely on instinct – and risk making any of the many mistakes that can ruin an exit – when you can consciously choose clarity, connection, and commitment to guide you through what could otherwise be a messy, unstructured process fraught with peril for your career.


Kelly O. Kay Partner +1 415 2915220

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