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If You Were Gone in Twelve Months

I made a decision late in 2014 that I would lead like I’ll be gone in 12 months. I’m not planning on being gone. I didn’t make an announcement. I’m just acting and thinking like I’ll be gone.

Being a short-termer makes me think more about the long-term.

How to replace yourself:

  1. Talk about shared values all the time. Values guide behaviors.
  2. Spend more time developing people to do the work than you spend doing the work.
  3. Eliminate, at least gradually, decisions and behaviors that depend exclusively on you. The more essential you are, the more you’re in the way.
  4. Make room for others by stepping back. Don’t just drop out. Prepare people. Share the vision. Connect new team members with old. Step back gradually.
  5. Plan to be away and let others figure out what to do. Tell them you’re going on vaction, but don’t tell them what to do.
  6. Honor ownership. When you see someone taking ownership, give them authority.
  7. Release more; control less. Stop being a control freak. One reason you can’t replace yourself is you want control. Great people don’t like being controlled. (Refer to #1)

Bonus: Determine the qualities and behaviors essential for your replacement.

I’m not planning to be gone in 12 months, but I’m thinking and acting like I will. I find the process uncomfortable but transformative.


Two key team members are moving to Colorado. They’re gone. I hate seeing them go.

Their departure is an important crisis in organizational life. No one will fill their shoes. But, two people are already stepping into those empty slots.

It’s likely we’ll stumble a bit, at first. Change creates a dip before things get better. In the end, new talent will ignite organizational evolution.

Someday, you’ll be gone. Start preparing now.

How might leaders replace themselves and stay?

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