Have you ever considered whether it’s time for you to move on from your current company or position and do something different? Do you have that gut feel that things are stale and you’re not as effective as you should be? It’s often not easy to decide that it’s time to leave a company or position, especially if you’ve invested a lot of time in the relationship and have perks such as vacation , pension, health care, etc. But at some point we all have to cross that bridge – either voluntarily or involuntarily.

Admitting that it is time to go is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of uncommon leadership and New Year’s is often a great time for reflection and goal setting. So, if you’re entering this phase of personal reflection here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Critical self-evaluation is a strength that helps us grow and reach uncommon goals
  • Being transparent is critical to yourself and those who count on you
  • If you get the opportunity to help find your replacement, leave a leadership legacy to be proud of – leave the organization better than you found it

If you’re not sure, consider the following transition decision-making model used by Jeffrey Hollender , co-founder and former CEO of Seventh Generation, when he decided it was time to step down. Obviously it wasn’t an easy decision and it was fraught with second guessing and internal turmoil, but nevertheless he did decide that he wasn’t the best choice to lead the environmentally friendly consumer packaged goods company to the next level needed to meet their stated goals.

So, three years ago, he began the difficult task of deciding how to make a seamless transition and avoid the mistakes of Michael Dell of Dell Computers and Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems who either left too early or too late, damaging their companies’ brand and reputation – not to mention their financial results and shareholder value.

While he was obviously concerned about the financial costs of a botched transition, he was more concerned with damaging Seventh Generation’s most valuable asset – their employees. Jeffrey knew that top talent was recruited to Seventh Generation specifically because of the company’s vision and values and the promise of a work environment where they could “summon all their individuality and creativity”. He was concerned about preserving employee engagement and he didn’t want to damage stakeholder trust or the company’s mission and reputation where “profits are considered a score rather than the game”.

So, how did Jeffrey lead his company into these new unchartered waters? According to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, he did what true leaders always do – he sought counsel from trusted confidants, he identified several transition tenets and followed his principles of community, transparency, mission and corporate consciousnes; all of which were central to building a purpose driven organization during his rein. Jeffrey’s transition tenets included:

  1. Candidly review your own performance and the culture of your organization – Break ingrained habits, eliminate stale ideas don’t simply repeat past successes and call that performance. During this personal assessment, Jeffrey realized that he, like all of us, had his flaws and limitations.
  2. Be Transparent – Jeffrey believed that secrecy was counter-productive and would erode morale and productivity making the new leader’s job even more difficult. So, what did Jeffrey do to ease his team’s concerns? He provided updates on the search every month and he put together a team of senior and junior associates to meet with candidates under serious consideration. In short, he not only believed getting more minds into the mix would result in a better decision – he lived it!
  3.  Develop the RIGHT Hiring Criteria – Seventh Generation’s seven “global imperatives” sound to many like a dream world, but it was that dream of utopia that helped differentiate them in the marketplace; so as Jeffrey carefully considered  the most essential qualifications for any serious candidate, he realized that the number one item on his list was their commitment to fulfilling Seventh Generation’s mission of deeper business purpose , in other words – their VALUES. He also included other “must haves” such as: high-growth management experience, demonstrated strategic ability and leadership capability.

This is the demonstration of true leadership that corporate lore is made of. In other words, Jeffrey demonstrated uncommon leadership and left a leadership legacy that will likely become legendary in the hallowed halls of Seventh Generation.

Recently I decided to make a huge change in my career path and it’s been the best thing I’ve ever done! It has revitalized my passions and forced me to to grow personally and professionally and it caused me to re-evaluate my priorities. Although critical personal evaluation is never easy – it’s worth it. Good Luck!