Cinematically, it is poignant and stirring, but we soon find out that he has not made proper preparations for his departure, including finding a safe place for the iconic ring of power.
Unlike Bilbo, I often think about how to “leave well” because of my role as an Interim Executive Director. But regardless of whether you are an entry-level or executive hobbit, leaving well is a valuable skill to develop.
Staying in one position or organization for many years can be laudable, but statistics reveal that most of us do not. The most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the average employee stays with an employer for just over four years. However, some industries (like food service) and roles (like managerial positions) have an average tenure that is far less than the national average. I have witnessed this trend toward shorter work stints in the nonprofit space as well. But knowing that people leave, does not tell us much about how they should leave or why “leaving well” is so important.
Why should you leave well? The primary purpose of any organization is to deliver on its mission. Enabling that to continue as seamlessly as possible is one reason to leave well. When someone leaves poorly, it can cause unintended consequences such as lower productivity due to decreased morale among remaining staff. Sometimes organizations will overcorrect following a tricky departure, making fast or sweeping reactionary changes that create instability and decrease impact. Simply put, leaving well allows organizations to remain committed to their missions so they can act as a force for good in their communities. Leaving poorly can also hurt you by hindering your future prospects. It is a small world, life is long, and we need each other more than we sometimes realize. Leaving well will be best for you and anyone you leave behind.
The art of leaving well comes through learning how to be “all in” when we are in a role while maintaining the ability to truly let go when it is time.
These 10 recommendations will help you understand how to leave your job gracefully:
I understand the temptation to leave with a bang like Bilbo. Without a doubt, leaving well is not easy, but cultivating this skill will give your career more flexibility. And it is not just about your own professional development, it is also about setting the organization up for success. The goal is to make it possible for your team to cheer you on as you give it your all and then cheer you on again as you let go and move on. Leaving well enables your organization and the members of your team to avoid unnecessary turmoil, giving them the best chance for future success.
If you are in a leadership role and planning your exit, consider bringing in interim leadership to bridge the gap until a permanent leader can be hired to fill the role. Valtas helps nonprofits with interim placements and executive search to keep these vital organizations doing their best work without disruption. Contact us to learn more about how we can help with your leadership transition.
About the Author
Hannah Cavendish-Palmer is an Interim Executive Director with Valtas. She recently finished her third Interim Executive Director role, which was at Oxbow Farm and Conservation Center. Hannah has been on the front lines of organizational development for more than 15 years.
With leadership experience at both larger institutions and small organizations, she excels at navigating change with courage and compassion. Hannah’s background in international aid, land use planning, and food systems has given her a thoughtful approach to solving complex problems, grounded in active listening and collaboration. A high-energy team builder, she tackles challenges with both optimism and realism, creating space for hard conversations when necessary.
Hannah has a Bachelors degree from the University of Washington and a Masters of Public Policy from Simon Fraser University. She lives in the Snoqualmie Valley with her husband, two kids, and three cats.
THE LATEST FROM VALTAS
You are welcome to subscribe to get the latest news, updates and insights from our team.