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Time to Go

Time to Go

Deciding to leave a company can be one of the toughest choices a leader has to make. Here's how to do it right

"Parting is such sweet sorrow." Shakespeare had it right - and not just when it comes to love. That phrase can resonate equally well when we find it is time to move on to a new job or company. Even the best of leaders in the best of companies may find it necessary to make a move at some point in their career. Have you ever stayed in a position when it was no longer beneficial to you, frozen by pangs of separation? When is it time to go? The go or stay decision could be one of the most critical career decisions you make. Here are some considerations.

The Party's Over

Most of us join a company expecting to be there until we retire, but it doesn't always work out that way. Events or circumstances often lead us to that crucial decision to depart.

Been there, done that. The challenge is gone. The work seems repetitive and the opportunity for new challenges appears dim. You're concerned that your skills will atrophy in this static environment. It is time to go.

Company-itis. Your company is sick. Revenue is down, profits are a thing of the past, and expenses have been cut to the bone. Understanding whether the company is in a death spiral or just suffering a temporary down cycle can be the key to a quality decision on your part. Hard times can be full of opportunities for dedicated employees willing to stick it out, so be sure to consider that before making the decision to leave.

A new order. Reorganisations can derail careers. Roles change, power shifts, new players emerge. All the effort in building a relationship and credibility with your boss feels wasted when a new leader arrives. If you think the investment necessary to re-establish relationships will be too great, then it may be time to leave. But be sure to recognise that any new opportunity in another company will require an even greater investment - without the support of your established network.

A tarnished image. Does your star shine less brightly? Your status may have changed in the company. Unfortunately, performance appraisals are not always good clues to how you are perceived. Assess the environmental clues. Are you listened to? Is your advice sought after? Do you get invited to the key meetings? Do your compensation and perks match your contributions? Keeping a heads-up approach to understanding your value will enable you to see its diminution early. If the situation can't be corrected, it may be time to leave.

There are also other signals that can provide encouragement for making that move. Maybe you hit the glass ceiling. Alternatively, if you've had a significant failure in a risk-averse company, you may not be able to recover. Even a major success can be a trigger ("How can she ever top that?"). Whatever the reasons, making the decision to move requires careful thought and lots of courage.

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