Transitions are hard. They are especially hard for entrepreneurs because we don’t move in and out of jobs like typical employees. Plus, structure usually isn’t our thing. We’re pretty comfortable with ambiguity and, having grown companies from the ground up, we’re used to roles evolving organically.
When we do face a change that demands a transition — adding a board position, selling our company, or hiring a C-level executive to take over some of our responsibilities — it can be unfamiliar and challenging.
So, how can you create Awesome experiences that ensure that both of the parties transitioning have clarity, purpose, and excitement around the changes? Our 5-Step Transition Plan provides clients with an easy-to-follow guide through the process.
Today, we’ll guide you through the plan with a story about Kate and Brad. Kate is the CEO of a software company. She’s recently hired her first COO, Brad, and she needs to transition some of her responsibilities to him. Kate is thrilled to have a new executive to support her business, but she’s also nervous about entrusting valuable responsibilities to someone else. After all, she’s worked hard to grow the company this far and doesn’t want to lose traction. Luckily, Kate has the Awesome 5-Step Transition Plan to guide her step by step — no learning the hard way this time.
Step 1: Clarify Roles
Before Brad arrives, Kate gets clear on who is already doing what. She identifies what her executive team is currently doing in order to identify the specific responsibilities that are shifting to Brad, as well as new responsibilities that will be created for his role.
Once Kate is clear on each person’s new responsibilities, she’s ready to meet with Brad. Kate and Brad begin the process by reviewing the current state of roles and responsibilities.
Next, Kate and Brad review the future state of roles and responsibilities, or who will be doing what after the transition. They now know where they are starting (A) and where they are ending (B). The rest of the transition plan is just to agree on how to get from A to B. Simple!
Step 2: Plan Learning
Together, Kate and Brad consider what skills Brad needs in order to be successful in his new role. Following a review of his new responsibilities, they decide that he needs more experience managing financials, updated information on California HR laws, and additional leadership skills.
Now that gaps are clearly identified, it’s just a matter of planning how Brad will acquire the knowledge and skills he needs to excel at his new position. They decide that Brad will work with the CFO to get up to speed on financials, take a short online course on California HR laws, and hire an executive coach to develop his leadership skills. They get clear on timing, budget, and required resources, then add this information to Brad’s onboarding project plan.
Step 3: Create Handoff Plan
To create their Handoff Plan, Brad and Kate determine which responsibilities need to be transitioned to Brad (from Step 1) and they take a stab at ordering them by date. They remember to pad these milestone dates with allowances for the unexpected so that Brad and the team are more likely to stay on track. Their goal is to create a reasonable plan that they can actually achieve.
Step 4: Communication Rhythm
Their next step is to ensure that there are communication supports in place for the plan. They schedule regular check-in meetings. Because plans are dynamic and never work out exactly how we predict, meeting regularly in order to evaluate how things are going will enable Kate and Brad to to fix problems as they arise.
Initially, they decide to meet more often, opting for 30-minute bi-weekly meetings with a plan to transition to 60-minute monthly meeting down the road. They also agree to discuss how the meeting frequency, length, day, or time are working for them at the first couple of meetings and make changes as necessary. With a plan in place and check-ins set, Kate schedules their recurring meetings and sends Brad the calendar invitation. Brad agrees to send an updated agenda two days before each meeting and schedules a recurring task for himself.
Step 5: Accountability and Support
The final step is for Kate and Brad to make sure they have the right amount of help for working the plan. They discuss a couple of options for support: 1) adding their admin to the meeting invitation to ensure that they stick to the plan and 2) working with a coach to help them transition smoothly. After weighing the pros and cons, they agree that investing in a coach who can share experience, hold them accountable, and facilitate the open and honest conversations that are key to executing an Awesome transition.
Thanks for being Awesome!
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