How to Fire Yourself With Grace When It's Time to Take Your Company to the Next Level
We're searching for top company cultures to be featured on our annual list. Think your company has what it takes? Apply Now »
Firing your CEO is never easy.
But it's especially tricky job when you're the CEO.
Many founders also serve not only as the lead shareholder, but also the chief executive. As the leader of your organization, you've no doubt invested your time, blood, sweat and tears into building the enterprise from the ground up.
But, often, organizations face a crossroads. Your board or business partners may feel it is time for a change. Your business may have evolved away from you. You might have even lost that spark.
Instead of feeling defeated or even insulted, you should look at this as an opportunity for both you and your business.
This isn't failure. You've guided the organization to this point, which, no matter how you slice it, means you've succeeded. Sure, your ride ends here and it's time to get off the train, but you can walk away with dignity and leave your organization better off in the process. Here's how:
1. Recognize that you've hit a wall.
Everyone -- yes, everyone -- reaches a point where they have gone as far as they can go. This is very common when we do the same job day after day. We lose perspective and even get stale. While you might have been the right person to lead the organization to this point, you might not be the right person to take it into the future. A good question to ask yourself is, why would you want to stay in this job at this point? There is no shame in hitting the wall.
2. Your ego is not a good reason to stay.
Your resistance to stepping down might have less to do about what it says about your business and more about how you may fret how it reflects on you. That is your ego talking. It also makes sense that you might be feeling embarrassed. After all, soon everyone will know. What will it be like to tell your friends, family, colleagues, clients and others that you couldn't finish the job you started? (Just wait until you change your LinkedIn profile!) While feeling this way is completely normal, it is not a good reason to stay put. How you will deal with the public relations of it all is definitely a legitimate concern but something that you may want to manage with the help of a public-relations consultant or a coach.
3. Get excited for new beginnings.
Sure, this might feel like the beginning of the end for you but it's also the beginning of a new part of your professional journey. What's next for you? You could be asked to stay on in some capacity, or maybe it's a complete split. Either way, remember that change is good. This gives you an opportunity to take on new challenges and make your mark in a new way. You were successful enough to build and lead one company, why not another? Someone once said that the difference between a successful person and an unsuccessful person is the time it takes to get up after being knocked down. Which are you?
4. Make sure you have someone to talk to.
This is a huge transition for you and not to be taken lightly. As with most life transitions, you can decide to handle it all by yourself, but it would be better to solicit someone to help you work through this trying time. That could be a discussion with your family around the dining-room table. It could be with a colleague you trust whom you have turned to in the past. It could be an executive coach or even a therapist. But, it is important to start a dialogue to help with both your transition out of your old role, and your entry into new ones. The sooner you do, the sooner you can get on with your life and replace this post with something else worthwhile. Holding in how you feel will only come back to haunt you.
Remember that attitude is everything. If you walk around feeling embarrassed, it will show. Hold your head up high, put your energy into finding someone to take over and walk away gracefully. The way you walk out the door will leave a lasting impression, so make it a good one.