FROM THE TOP: When is it time to move on?

FROM THE TOP: When is it time to move on? - However much you like your job, you'll have to leave it sooner or later if you want to progress. It could take a few months or a few years, but when the exit moment comes you need to recognise it. Staying in a p

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

However much you like your job, you'll have to leave it sooner or later if you want to progress. It could take a few months or a few years, but when the exit moment comes you need to recognise it. Staying in a position you've outgrown is bad for your soul and even worse for your CV. But what are the signs that you need to call the headhunters? MT asked three business leaders how they decide when it's time to up sticks.


Sooner than you think!

Knowing the right moment to go is one of the vital skills in building a great reputation. Many people have had their achievements undermined through carrying on too long - consider Bismarck, Margaret Thatcher or, closer to home, Richard Greenbury or Iain Vallance.

A prominent retailer, on quitting the chain he had founded, told me simply that he had used up most of his good ideas for the business and it was time to let new thinking carry it forward. It worked - the company went from strength to strength, but much of the credit stayed with the founder.

So go early - when you know you've achieved much, but before you feel that you've done all you can. Occasionally you might miss out on a piece of glory, but you'll be banking another untarnished success. Any good dealmaker will tell you that it's wise to leave something for the other guy.

Simon Burke is chairman of Hamleys Plc and was previously chief executive of Virgin Retail.


My personal philosophy is always to move on as soon as I start to feel comfortable in any position. I believe in being constantly stretched at work, and comfort and routine are signs that you have stopped learning.

But when the time came for me to leave the Dome it was because I had tried everything I could and there was no other way out. I was devastated. My part in the bid finally ended when, after 48 hours of no-sleep negotiations, our consortium was still facing a brick wall. We might as well have been talking Chinese for all the good it did us. I wanted to get on with running the Dome as a business, but it became clear that the bidding process was going to continue for months. I wasn't about to go off and play golf for two years while the deal went through, so I decided to move on. I'm now looking for a new challenge, another strong brand that is failing that I can help to turn round. My only other stipulation is that I really must stay in this country - the labour laws are too restrictive in France and Germany. The UK is the only place in Europe where you can really do business, as far as I'm concerned.

The former vice-president of Disneyland Paris, Pierre-Yves Gerbeau ran the Dome until its closure in January and subsequently failed in a bid to keep the ill-starred attraction running.


Leaving an organisation and moving on can be as difficult as any separation, bereavement or loss, however positive and longed for the next step may be. It is often so hard for people that they need to create a crisis that necessitates leaving, so as to avoid the emotional pain of doing so under their own steam. One can explain many boardroom bloodbaths in this light.

Some of the clients I see come to sort out their feelings about moving on in order to be able to prepare and plan for it in a way that benefits both themselves and their organisation. It may be time to move on when your sort of leadership is no longer required, although you need to be self-aware enough to recognise when you no longer have any influence and that it is better for you and the organisation if you go. Another measure might be if you and/or the organisation have stopped learning and doing new things.

An indication of this could be that you've stopped feeling anxious, anxiety being the sign that you are on the edge of new learning.

Clare Huffington is director of the Tavistock Consultancy Service, a unique consultancy unit operating from within the NHS and focusing on increasing organisational health by developing excellence in leadership She is a chartered clinical psychologist who specialises in coaching senior executives.

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