Moving on painlessly

Julia Vowler talks to the outgoing IT director of Autoglass about how he has prepared for his new post heading software...

Julia Vowler talks to the outgoing IT director of Autoglass about how he has prepared for his new post heading software integration at Le Meridien Hotels, while doing what he can to allow his successor to hit the ground running

However exciting getting a new job is, the existing job does not disappear in a puff of smoke the moment you land the new one, so it is important to make the transition between the two as smooth as possible.

At Autoglass, IT director Chris Cook is on the verge of setting off for his next role as director of software integration at Le Meridien Hotels a post he takes up early next month. It is, he acknowledges, a very busy time. "There are a lot of things to tie up with the old job, but I'm also getting started on the new one at the same time.

"The process starts from before you make the decision to move. If you accept an interview for a new position you should have already thought about things like succession planning, and what will happen to existing projects," he says.

When a new job arrives, ideally it is best not to hang around too long after handing in your resignation, says Cook. "The longer you have to stay the less motivated you will become," he warns. He was fortunate in that Autoglass reduced his standard, one-year notice period. "Three months is enough to allow me to tie things up, and for my successor to be recruited," he says.

The most important aspect to leaving your job is your attitude. "I've been at Autoglass for three years. I feel that if I've done things properly for three years then it is worth doing things properly for my notice period. It's for your own sense of professionalism and because you don't want to leave on bad terms with your boss - you never know when you might need their help."

It is also for the sake of your existing colleagues and team. "I've spent time building up relationships - and I owe it to them to get them sorted out before I go," says Cook. However big a change a new job is for you, your leaving also means change for your existing staff.

"The biggest impact can be on those you're leaving behind. You owe it to them to help them manage the transition and liaise with the new guy," he says. "Never underestimate how much time you will need to spend with your existing team to help them cope with the change-over."

His successor at Autoglass is an internal appointee, so the face will be familiar, and the company has decided to time the merger of IT with business strategy to coincide with Cook's departure. The new IT director will be the existing director of business development, a realignment that will inevitably bring changes of its own.

"My direct reports feel unsettled about how they will fit in," says Cook. It is up to the outgoing director, he believes, to take the time to talk people through the changes, reassure them and pass their questions on to their new boss. Your staff should get a chance to meet their new boss as soon as the news is out, says Cook, and you need to start the hand over at that time as well.

"I'm in regular communication, both formally and informally. At Autoglass we are fortunate because we have a culture of commonality and cross-departmental working - we are used to working together closely at senior management level."

At what point, though, should you start to let slip the reins, and stop taking IT decisions? "For big things - we have a major project coming up next year, for example - it would be wrong of me to take decisions on that, irrespective of what my responsibility currently is for it. I wouldn't progress any [significant] measures without talking it through with my successor," says Cook.

When it comes to the regular departmental meetings, the incoming director should start attending at some point in the transition period, says Cook - perhaps two or three weeks before taking over. That way he can get bedded down into the daily nitty-gritty of running IT. "The idea is to introduce the new guy with minimum disruption."

The most critical exit task is to profile his team for the incoming director. "This is very important and you must do it thoroughly," urges Cook. "I've booked interim reviews for my staff so that I can hand over a very clear performance statement, so that when my successor does a full performance review there is a clear picture of how people performed under me. It is vital - and only fair to staff - to do this properly."

At the same time you will also have to be preparing for your new job as well. "It is tough because basically you are doing two jobs at once," says Cook. "You want to exit your old job properly, while simultaneously getting up to speed on the new job.

"It has been six months since I was first approached, and Le Meridien has moved on since then," he says. "You need to spend time keeping up with what's going on in the new company, so you can arrive motivated, full of ideas and hit the ground running.

"There is a lot of work you can do beforehand. You get tons of documentation and perhaps this is the one time when you do read it really thoroughly."

He has also had to start spending time at Le Meridien, using up holiday time and clocking up mileage. "I work in Bedford, live in Guildford and Le Meridien is in central London so I have had a few late night commutes.

"Because you are trying to do two jobs at once it is vital to manage your time. You have to be completely ruthless about your diary. You have got to start closing down on your existing job - it is always easy to take on more and more at meetings, but this is the time to close actions, while, most importantly, keeping your door open to your own people.

The one group of people who will inevitably get the least of your time is your family, Cook warns. "My weekends are all the more precious now," he says, "and I'm trying to give my family special consideration."

The key is, perhaps, less time overall, but more quality time during the transition period. Family support is important.

"Having a very understanding wife helps. She recognises that this is a great move for me, and that I'm really motivated and enthusiastic about my new job."

It also helps that he is going to work for a luxury hotel group. "My wife is already planning our next holiday," he says.

When changing jobs you should:
  • Consider succession planning at an early stage
  • Move as swiftly as practicable
  • Help your staff to deal with the transition
  • Liaise with your successor to enable a smooth hand over

  • Read up on your new role.

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