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A key leader is leaving: How do you create a smooth transition?

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Q. A key leader on your team is leaving on amicable terms. How do you ensure the transition is successful -- for the leader and the rest of your staff?

1. Create a living "policies and procedures" manual

Each leader needs written procedures that cover how their workflows fit in with the entire operation. You want a living document that is continually updated and improved so that when the new leader takes over, there is a game plan to help smooth the transition. You can also choose a replacement who is already known and respected by the rest of the staff. This helps alleviate fear of change. -- Nicole Munoz, Start Ranking Now

2. Have them help train their replacement

When someone leaves AquaMobile on amicable terms, I always work with them to put a transition plan in place, which they will use themselves to onboard their replacement. If I haven't found a suitable replacement in time, I ask the employee who is leaving to come back for one day to help with the transition. They tend to be more than willing. -- Diana Goodwin, AquaMobile

3. Involve the staff in hiring their replacement

If the leader is leaving amicably, then they'll probably be involved in the hiring and onboarding of their replacement. However, the rest of the team that will be "inherited" by the replacement is often overlooked. Make sure you get buy-in from them to ensure that they'll be happy with their new manager and productive during and after the transition. -- Roger Lee, Captain401

4. Be as transparent about the departure as possible

It’s important to make sure everyone understands why that person is going and, ideally, the news should come from the person who is leaving. Leave some time between the announcement and the departure so employees can see that it is truly amicable. -- Hongwei Liu, mappedin

5. Be a friend

I've had a key leader leave in the past and the best way to keep the transition amicable and successful is to provide support like a friend. Because at that point, that is all you both are to each other. This allows me to see the situation for what it truly is (someone moving on to a new adventure) and convey that to my team. -- Kelsey Meyer, Influence & Co.

6. Keep communication lines open

It's important to encourage communication and offer a special email for questions about the transition or a direct line to leadership to voice any concerns. This is also a way to share information about how the transition will work and what benefits it can provide. It can also be a good way to send out positive messages about the transition. -- Cynthia Johnson, Ipseity Media

7. Delegate responsibilities

First, we would identify and make sure the key, primary and secondary responsibilities of the leader are outlined. This way we can delegate them to specific, responsible team members until we find a suitable replacement in order to ensure continuity. Second, we would assign another manager to oversee the progress of the delegated work to ensure that it moves forward and doesn’t stall. -- Russell Kommer, eSoftware Associates Inc

8. Light the way as best you can

Have a clear path forward at the same time that you're announcing the news. People feel uneasy when you tell them that something out of their control is changing. Give them a certain outcome. Even if you don't yet know who's replacing that person, giving people a very clear idea of what to expect and what will follow makes the change easier. -- Christopher Kelly, Convene

9. Take a long-term view

Trust in the long-term value of doing the right thing, even if there's frustration in the short term - which is very likely. Be clear in your needs and listen to his or hers so that there is respect on both sides. As is important for every separation, encourage open lines of honest communication in order to learn the most from this experience. -- Peggy Shell, Creative Alignments

10. Make it enjoyable

Transitioning away from a company does not have to be a traumatic experience. If you surround the situation with positive energy, it will lighten the mood and make the transition easier. Focus on the good times and don’t spend time with the bad. -- Diego Orjuela, Cables & Sensors, LLC