Leaving your company
Being a manager is hard, it’s hard doing the job and it’s even harder quitting the job. Several months ago I decided to leave my company and started looking for other opportunities. It was a huge struggle, I spent the past six and a half years at the company, building teams and helping people grow — this is something that wasn’t trivial to leave behind.
During the process, I looked for inspiration from other managers to understand what they did in order to make a decision, but unfortunately, most of the stuff I found was either by people that didn’t manage other people or from CEOs deciding to leave their companies. It seems that this topic just isn’t being discussed enough, and it should.
My dear friend Dennis Nerush wrote about the hard process you need to go through as a manager after you have already decided to leave. What I want to discuss, is a somewhat harder thing — the total melt down process of deciding to quit as a manager — by sharing this, I hope to help others from what I learned in my process.
This is a process — and a hard one
During my career I watched a lot of people come and go, I watched my own people decide to leave me and from the side, it always seemed like a simple decision.
It’s important to say — it’s not simple, and it’s not something you decide in a day — it’s a process — an important one that will strengthen you at the end regardless of the decision.
I guess that it all started because something happened, something changed, and although you have never looked around, this time you decided to let your shields go down.
From that point, the feeling just spirals and you start thinking about what you should do next. This is a very difficult feeling, for me the fact that I even thought of leaving felt like betrayal of my people and my managers. I felt selfish to event be considering it. It took me some time to realize— it is ok.
It’s ok to look out for yourself, it’s also your obligation, this doesn’t make you an egoist. This is the same thing you expect from each one of your people so why don’t you do it for yourself? Your managers will take you up to a certain point and eventually you are the one that is responsible for your own growth and happiness, even if that means that the next step is leaving your company.
With all the difficulties and respect for your people and managers — you need to look inside, put the bad feelings aside and make a decision.
As this process isn’t trivial, I want to share some of the things I learned during my process in the hope that it will help other managers that are in a similar situation as I was.
Find a mentor to share your dilemmas
During this whole process you need to talk, talk and then talk some more.
Talking helps us hear and understand what we need to do. You can talk to yourself but then people will probably think you lost it, so it’s better to find someone to share your thoughts with.
As a first step in this very hard process — You need to find someone to help you reflect your dilemmas.
It can be a good friend, it can be your partner, whoever you want. The most important thing is that it is someone you trust who has the ability to listen and reflect back your thoughts in a way that you can easily digest. It will probably be better if they will also know your industry so that they can have a good sense of comparison between opportunities and challenges.
After you start talking — you can start thinking about what stops you from making a decision.
Have an exit plan
A colleague once told me that he is never accepting a new role without knowing how he can step down from that same role. This isn’t specific for managers but is sure one of your responsibilities as a manager.
You should have a plan in place that details what should happen in case you are not going to continue your role — either because you are going to take a different role in the company or because you have decided to leave it.
At the very least, this plan should define who can take on your responsibilities. It can be your number #2 or it could be divided into several people or teams across the company. The important thing is to make sure that non of your responsibilities get dropped.
This is one of the ways to make sure that you are never the only person that has specific knowledge and become a bus factor. This is also part of the growth plan for your people.
If you are already considering leaving your company, I hope you have an exit plan in place as this is something that is your responsibility to do when you start your role as a manger. If you don’t have one — it will make this process much harder than it already is — so go and create one.
Don’t use your people as an excuse
Leaving is hard, and also scary. During this process you will try to convince yourself why leaving is not the right decision and find all kind of reasons to backing that claim up.
One of the easiest things to do is to “blame” other people for it — your people.
You start thinking things like — “but they need me…” “who will help my people grow?” ”I’m leading this project/product/team how will it succeed without me?”
Although all those concerns somehow have a logical reasoning — it’s really about you and not about them. The truth is that everyone is replaceable — including you — so stop thinking that you are such a hot shot and stop being selfish, if you did your job right, your people will be able to get to the next stage on their own. This is what you taught them this whole time. There is nothing that forces your people to grow faster than seeing their manager leaving, as it creates a void and an opportunity for them to grow further.
This is natural way to progress inside an organisation.
Bottom line — don’t worry, your people will be perfectly fine and if it helps just remember that you can still mentor them from afar even when you are not around anymore.
Don’t be blindly loyal
I’m not even sure if this is a thing anymore in a time that people switch jobs frequently, but, it is a big deal for me. When I’m joining a company it’s not for a short term fling. I’m connected to my people, my managers, my company — and I put my shields up high.
When you start having those thoughts you will also start selling yourself excuses like “I can’t leave as I’m betraying X” where X can be anyone — your partner, your people, your manager.
This feeling makes it twice as hard to make a decision to leave and it can even blind you from doing things that are important for your growth. The important thing to remember is that at the end of the day you are not betraying anyone other than yourself — if you are not thinking about your next step.
You owe yourself happiness, growth and fulfilled career where you do what you want to and you shouldn’t feel bad about it.
Remove the blindfold, stay loyal, but don’t be blindly loyal.
Practice what you preach
You are always challenging your people.
You are investing tons of time with them and provide constant feedback so that they will improve.
You talk about goals and how to achieve them and you hold them accountable for their growth — So why aren’t you doing the same for yourself?
Sometimes we are so focused on other peoples growth that we forget that we also need it. You come to a point as a manager that you are the owner of your own growth, your managers will not have the bandwidth to do what you are doing with your people — so the only one that is responsible for it — is you.
Do exactly what you are doing with your people — understand where you want to be, calculate what is the next step for you, identify the pros/cons of staying vs leaving and what will be the best way to reach that next step. Always remember that this is the same thing that you expect from your people, you are there to guide them but they are responsible for their own growth — jumping to your next challenge is your obligation to yourself.
Your people will understand.
It is your decision to make
The only one that is responsible for your growth is you and if your next step includes leaving the company, don’t expect your manager to help with it and take the decision for you (although I know a few great managers that will help you make this decision)
You are a manager, decision making is part of your best skill — no matter how hard it is to make. And this is your decision to make.
Take your time — but not too much time
You may think it doesn’t effect your day to day and you can totally work as usual while this dilemma is floating in your head. You are wrong. This dilemma is cognitive overhead that prevents you from doing your job and looking ahead.
You can’t work on next year’s goals or the next step for your people when you might not even be there, you need to be honest with them so they will know what they need to do next.
Make sure you are taking a decision in the shortest time possible, your people and your managers needs a functioning manager. In this state, you are no longer part of the solution, you are part of the problem — and they need to solve it.
In short, don’t stall, be honest and give your people and managers the option to start talking about next steps.
Deep down — You know the answer
You can spend days and weeks torturing yourself about this dilemma.
You can take your time even though it will hurt your people and yourself and continue to talk and discuss with tons of friends, but the truth is — you already have the answer — so you better stop.
You need to trust your instincts, this is one of the main things that got you to this point as a manager. You know that every time you are going against your gut feeling, things go wrong — so don’t.
Trust your instincts — and make a decision.
Leaving is hard
Everyone has their own ups and downs in their workplace and their shields will go down from time to time — this is natural and it happened to me several times during this long period at my previous company. I always decided to stay and never regretted any of my decisions as they helped me improve my skills and jump to my next level. This time around was the hardest and eventually, I took the decision to leave — which was the right decision for me.
I don’t know if you are currently in this process or not. If you are, I hope that this will help you make your decision. If you have been in this spiral before — I encourage you to share your thoughts and learnings from your personal experience with more, as this is valuable information that I’m sure more managers will be happy to read and learn from.
And finally, don’t forget —
“The only thing that stops you from moving forward is yourself, everything else is just your imagination” — Me.