letting the balloon go

Today is my last day on the job at a company that I have been with since 2007. I resigned in mid April and accepted their proposal to stay on for another two and a half months for an orderly transition. It is a small company and I wore a few hats, so we spent a fair bit of time parsing-out my tasks to other staff and hired a developer to take over my lead of system administration, web development, and IT support.

Friends have expressed surprise at how much I’ve been involved in the transition. I don’t want to see the company hurt by my departure. Really, it should be set up for renewed success. I don’t like to hear how so-and-so is irreplaceable at a company. When that is said of someone, you know you have got a problem.

For the past few years, I’ve found that there is a lot of freedom to be had when you work to make your job and the job of those you supervise replaceable. I imagine the loyal worker feels stuck when they know that no one else can do a certain task that only they can do. Maybe it is a form of job security, but it is also a kind of bondage and will form a bottleneck for organizational resilience and growth.

How do you encourage employees to make themselves replaceable? I can’t say I know, because I don’t think I was ultimately able to foster it as a company value. Here’s what I tried: discuss it with management regularly. Encourage them to document and delegate their routines. For me it involved implementation of version control for software development, documentation of all dependencies and credentials, and foster the sharing of all working documents using Google Drive and Slack.

I had imagined the trajectory of the company a little differently. I had a plan for the platform to build on its strength in retailing white glove service delivery products. I thought we would set up a board of directors and that the bosses would transition into the next phase of their careers as board members – advising and supporting a new crop of managers. It is hard though, because it means giving over decision-making and accountability to a board.

I’m still open to joining a board of directors at the company, if they decide to form one and offer a retainer. When you have a small company that’s had consistent year over year growth, sales in the millions, and only two corporate officers that are healthy, but old enough to retire, then I think a board of directors is a smart way to secure the company and ensure continued operation in the event something happens to someone irreplaceable.

I want to thank all my dear friends and colleagues who have been supportive of me in this job and those that encouraged me to make a change. My sincere thank you to all the vendors that wrote incredible, heart warming messages of support and encouragement. You made me feel recognized for work that really was impossible without you. And I want to thank my bosses. Thank you for the opportunities you gave me and the trust you had in me to work on the company you founded.

How will I try remember today? Well, I spent most of the week nursing a substantial sinus infection. Thanks to an unusually cool spring, the first heat wave of summer hit last Saturday in a train wreck of pollen. Now that I’ve finally emerged from that fever, I want to set out on my kayak this evening with Erica. We’ll head to the north-end beach of Seward Park for a picnic. There, under the wobbly wings of flight training young herons and with a view of the skyline, we’ll savor the remains of the day and the end of a long chapter.

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