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Heather Greatrex  Heather Greatrex – Director, Executive Action

Parting company messily with senior people is not just the preserve of political parties or football clubs; it happens every day. If companies’ shareholders, clients and other stakeholders were to really understand the true total costs and disruption involved in terminating some executives’ contracts, they might be very shocked.

Reporting obligations obviously require some transparency for PLCs, but this only relates to directors of the company, and will only ever tell part of the story. Such disclosures do not take into account the legal fees and considerable time involved, so quoted figures are much lower than the reality. Nevertheless, a litigation-free outcome is often so highly prized that any amount of time or money seems worth it.

When advising MDs, CEO or heads of functions, there is invariably and understandably a reluctance to embark upon the termination of a senior contract. This can be wishful thinking (“the problem isn’t that bad”) or optimism that a corporate or organisational event will resolve the matter. Sometimes it’s a function of not really appreciating the damage being done to the organisation by failing to act. These are negative cycles of thinking, but it need not be so: mature organisation accept and, above all, manage senior exits well and avoid the upheaval often assumed to be an inevitable by-product. Going further, the organisations that see senior exits as an inevitable part of change management are best placed to ‘ride out the storm’.

Senior people don’t usually fail because of incompetence, but because of style, relationship issues or just fatigue. When an organisation requires different things or a new approach, it may be confronted by resistance which can manifest itself in ‘bad behaviour’ or disengagement from the new world.

The need to terminate can also become clear through executive development, for example, when organisations are assisting senior people to come to terms with change and it becomes apparent that there are insufficient time or resources to elicit the new behaviour required from someone who’s been in post for years.

In reality, this feature of organisational change and the speed with which things often need to happen in modern organisations can often be a senior individual’s first experience of “failure”, and the requisite emotions associated with that feeling are rarely a great backdrop for a productive and stress free set of conversations.

Establishing a mind-set which explicitly accepts that senior people need support to exit, and creating a strategy to manage that exit with a minimum of fuss, time and cost, is a vital tool in effective management. Individuals will, on occasions, find themselves in the wrong job or organisation, but the appropriate legal advice, transparency and support can enable them to exit with dignity.

Although sometimes synonymous with outplacement, the term ‘career transition’ covers a wide variety of different types of interventions, the common factor being change – for the individual, the organisation, or sometimes for both. The provision of this kind of support can result in less bad feeling and disruption and allow the organisation – and specifically senior colleagues still in post – to focus on effective change management and business success.

In practice, Career Transition can mean supporting people in adapting to a new role and/or organisation. First 100 Days (or ‘on-boarding’) programmes assist people to anticipate, plan and learn quickly the approach they need to succeed in a new role or set of circumstances. Career Review is often a useful opportunity for people to take stock, reflect and plan for the future. It provides an opportunity to explore, refresh and renew one’s commitment to a chosen field or, perhaps, to explore more actively different ways of doing things.

For a variety of reasons an individual might need to change course, and the best way of achieving this is to explore alternative opportunities in-depth. Outplacement is an effective tool to achieve this aspect of career transition.

A framework for delivering each of these types of programmes can easily be set out – but beware of “boiler plate” or “template” solutions to what are, at the end of the day, individual and sometimes unique sets of circumstances.

In summary, a considered approach and strategy for career transition can help people and organisations cope with, plan for and manage change more effectively, and to do so without damaging reputations or a boardroom bloodbath.

Heather Greatrex

Posted: October 12th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Communication, Development | Tags: , , | No Comments »