Voice Over - Signal Those Turns

When you decide that you are done with a role, there are several ways to leave. You can Rip the Bandaid and quit with minimum notice. You can do a classic Fade Away and just gradually disappear as a useful functioning part of the organisation until no one gives a rat’s ass that you are leaving. You can Play Hard To Get by dropping hints that you are interviewing elsewhere and see if the company will attempt to lure you back… and if they don’t you’ll probably end up going the Rip the Bandaid route. There are probably others; Happy to hear from you, Dear Reader, on methods you’ve seen or tried. My favourite path is called Signal Those Turns. This method involves explaining to the organisation and all the people in it precisely when, how and why you are leaving and then giving everyone involved months – literally months – to get their shit together… including yourself.

The first time I did this was at WatchGuard in 2005 when I provided a two month notice before I dropped out of the work force to home school my children and sail the world. My reasoning at the time was that I was a full director of the company, managed over a dozen people as well as served as the company focal point for a reseller training network in 17 countries. I was part of the brand, in other words, and it seemed reasonable that a considered, longer approach to transitioning to my replacement would be in the best interests of the organisation.

Sadly, they didn’t take advantage of the extended time frame. Like… they did nothing. They didn’t put my job up, they didn’t recruit, they didn’t hire, they didn’t replace, they didn’t do anything. I worked with my team and contacted all those resellers during those two months, but the company did nothing to put in place a transition of my work, accountabilities, or authorities. Not gonna lie… it kind of hurt my feelings.

However, this is the norm. I have yet to see any organisation that explicitly budgets to replace head count during transition periods for back office roles. Think about that for a second. We know our average retention rates. We also know approximately our replacement timeline and induction calendar for many roles. We have a really good notion for those same roles how long it takes for someone to become truly effective in the role. It’s a pretty basic math problem that any manager should factor all that in and budget accordingly. It also feels to me like a circular problem. Since most people do not use the Signal Those Turns method to depart a role, budgeting for an overlapping transition makes no sense. However if we DID budget for it, maybe more people would Signal Those Turns. Chicken meet egg.

Back in 2005, I left the building with a tremendous sense of unease. In the last week, the powers that be interim appointed my 2IC into my role. We spent those last days in a scramble to set her up for success, and she did fine. It wasn’t ideal, but it wasn’t horrible either. I didn’t have the language back then to describe change curves and the process my people and peers went through to adapt to my departure, but it does feel in retrospect that the extended notice gave them plenty of time to emotionally and intellectually prepare for the hole I left in the company culture. Also… and let’s be brutally honest… none of us is really as important as we think ourselves. The company didn’t fall down when I left, so maybe all that ‘prepare the company for turnover’ stuff is egotistical sophistry with no real business purpose.

Because I am forever trying to live my personal mantra to “be the change you want to see,” I am once again using a Signal Those Turns approach for my departure from my current role. Arguably, I’ve been dropping hints in Voice Over since January and now we’ve set a date… four months from now. Lol. Okay, yeah I’ve gone overboard; Even I think a four month notice is excessive. However, I simply couldn’t help myself as I want to share my excitement about what’s next in the Dean and Toast Story with my friends, coworkers, Voice Over readers. We’re gonna on a road trip, people!

I am so excited. We’ve found a van, Dean’s numbers are holding (keep all those fingers and toes crossed people, it’s apparently working), and now we’re looking into flight reservations. The countdown begins! In February we fly to Amsterdam to get the van. The plan is to kick around Europe until we come back in December sometime. Where are we going? What are we doing? “Everything.” That’s it. That’s the plan. Everything. Heh. I love open ended trips.

Start through those Change Curves IAG peeps! You’ve got a whoppin’ four months so don’t tell me I haven’t given you enough time to process this change. My own change curve starts with the excitement, of course. The regrets, fears, anxiety will no doubt trickle through over the coming weeks and months. I know my biggest challenge – as it always is in these situations – is letting go of the notion that I’m important. None of us are. Businesses are an entity with an ever-changing cellular makeup and no single one of us is irreplaceable. So, I’ve got 14 weeks to make myself irrelevant. Here we go!

That awkward moment when you think you’re important to someone, but you’re not.” ~ Anon