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Coach Me To Leave (Part 1)-How to design your 'Exit Strategy' even if you don't think you need one!

Updated: Jan 3, 2019

As another year ends ask yourself the following; will I accept another year of the same repetition OR will I decide to start planning my ‘Exit Strategy’ for a new beginning?

My Story

After 8 years of working for the same organisation I knew it was time to go, what I didn’t realise was it would take me another 2 years to have the confidence and courage to finally leave.

It’s easier to stay with an organsiation even you are feeling unhappy and want to leave. Personally, it was easier to choose comfort over discomfort as the fear and uncertainty of leaving was too overwhelming.

What keeps you in a place for 10 years?

  • It pays the bills; I knew I was going to get paid every fortnight, so it was financially secure.

  • The people and the relationships I had developed over the years; it is always about the people.

  • I had flexibility to work from home whenever I needed.

  • I understood the internal political environment; I knew who to align with and who to avoid.

  • I could get things done quicker than others – I knew who could make things happen and how to work with every policy and procedure to get the best results.

  • I was comfortable; the certainty of knowing an organisation and the people who work within it gives you a sense of safety.

What I would later learn from studies in brain science was all of these perceived beliefs was my cognitive biases keeping me safe, its how we are wired. We naturally avoid anything that involves taking a risk, uncertainty or exposing our emotions (I call this going into the cave) before we have the courage to take action.

We self-sabotage our own growth, development and happiness by choosing comfort over discomfort.

I had survived 3 restructures in 8 years, but it was the last one which saw me come crashing down with a fierce dose of reality. My role had been made redundant and I had applied for 3 new positions believing I would be a front runner for all of them, it would only be a matter of which one did I really want?

However, this was far from reality and for the first time in my 20 plus years of working I had not been successful in winning any of the roles I had applied for putting a huge dent in my ego. How had this happened? I had always been a top performer in everything I did and to suddenly face the likelihood of redundancy was devastating, what would everyone say?

I had hit an all-time low in my career, I didn’t feel valued by the organisation and I had lost all belief and confidence in myself. I started experiencing increased levels anxiety whenever I had to speak to an audience which resulted in me having 2 weeks stress leave. It felt like I was standing at the bottom of a huge mountain and I could not navigate how to take the first step to climb over or go around it.

After confiding to a close friend, she turned to me and said, “so what is your Exit Strategy?”

I had never heard of having an ‘Exit Strategy’ let alone knowing how to go about planning and implementing one, but there was something instantly empowering about those ‘two words’.

Being made redundant and finding myself without a role was exactly the disruption or the jolt I needed to change. It moved me out of my comfort zone and forced me to take action and focus on what I needed to do to leave.

What is an ‘Exit Strategy’ and where do you start?

One of the great things about crafting your own ‘Exit Strategy’ is you don’t need to know exactly what you want to do, where you will go or when you will leave in order to take the first steps towards executing your plan.

What does an ‘Exit Strategy’ do?

It gives you a new direction and critical path to follow which not only prepares you to leave, it also keeps your attention focused on what is important. It gives you purpose and momentum increasing your confidence and courage to keep taking the next step.

Crafting & Implementing Your ‘Exit Strategy’

Here is my 4-step process on how to go about crafting your ‘Exit Strategy’;

Step 1:Who are you?How would you describe yourself?

This is an important first step towards defining who you are as a person and what you stand for. Don’t make the mistake of thinking the organisation is the brand you are your own brand and you need to be clear about what this looks like so you can start ‘living and being it’ not what someone else tells you.

How do I start this?

Defining your own personal brand can be a work in progress and may take some time, so give yourself room and space to discover what you stand for. As a guide start by considering the questions below;

  • What problems are you good at solving?

  • What do you do better than anyone else?

  • What are your top 3 values? Where do they show up for you in the work environment and at home? Which values are missing?

  • What 3 words would your colleagues, friends and or clients use to describe you? If you are not sure simply ask them.

  • What makes the way you go about achieving results interesting or unique?

  • What do others frequently praise or compliment you for?

  • If you were a celebrity who would you be and why?

Where to go to find out more?

You will find a myriad of information on ‘personal branding’ available on the internet.

Step 2: What do you want to be known for?

This one is game changing for getting others to see you in a different way or recognising you have many talents or interests. You can spend 10 years in one place and no one will really know what you do or where you want to go, unless you actively tell them and then keep on telling them again and again.

If you are not visibly and actively communicating what interests you, what you are working on, what you are researching or what you are curious about; you will be labelled and branded how others perceive you and it may not be how you want to be seen. I believe this is one of the key reasons why it becomes harder to win internal positions and keep progressing within the same organisation.

“you will be labelled and branded how others perceive you and it may not be how you want to be seen.”

How to I start doing this?

Start sharing your own content (ie) your ideas, interests, new things you are working on or are experimenting with – start thinking and acting like a ‘Thought Leader’ in the field of expertise you want to be known.

If you are thinking no one will be interested in what I have to offer than you are wrong! More people than you realise will be interested in what you have to say or think and you will be surprised how many new connections you will make; you just have to have the courage to start.

Share articles of interest on social media or internal platforms, watch a new Ted talk or podcast and share what you have learnt or enjoyed. If the thought of posting something on social media is too scary for you then start with telling a friend or close colleague.

“You can spend 10 years in one place and no one will know what you do or what you want to do unless you actively tell them and then keep on telling them again and again.”


Two good first steps to get you started on crafting your ‘Exit Strategy’.

Stay tuned next week for ‘Coaching Me To Leave - Part 2’ where I will share my final 2 steps in how to start crafting your own ‘Exit Strategy’ even if you don’t think you need one.

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