Q: What is the best approach to transitioning from your current position with a long-term employer to a new company with the least amount of drama?

 A: 1. Do not give notice to your current employer until you have received an authorized formal offer from the new company, cleared a background check and drug screening (if applicable). Both parties must agree to all terms. Have you received all applicable documentation pertaining to the offer? Mutually agreed upon job description which outlines the expected job duties and responsibilities, terms of the sign on bonus and relocation package (if applicable), detailed benefits information including health, dental, vision, short term and long term disability plans, retirement and pension plans, vacation and paid time off policies, education and training reimbursement. etc. The time to negotiate is before you accept the offer not after.

2. After carefully reviewing the offer and applicable documentation, sign the offer, return by email, fax or if you are local personally drop it off to their office and confirm by phone that it was received. Communicate with your point of contact to confirm your start date and expected time of arrival on your first day. Often times the hiring manager will contact you to welcome you to the company and possibly invite you to lunch before your start date. If you do not hear from the hiring manager, take the initiative and call them and express your enthusiasm about joining the company. It’s a nice touch to ask your direct manager what you can do between now and your official start date to get up to speed.

3. Give your two weeks notice to your current employer in writing and request a meeting with your direct manager to communicate the change. Be aware of what compensation is owed to you; last paycheck, accrued vacation, medical savings plan, cobra, reimbursement for company expenses, etc. Ask for references from your colleagues, this is the best and may be your only time to request this information. Start to gather your personal belongings; do not take any company property without permission. You may be asked to leave upon giving notice. You may be asked to stay beyond the two weeks notice to transfer your knowledge. I do not advise that you stay on longer than two weeks; this is ample time to document your position and train someone. Be professional about this process, do not burn any bridges. Keep the lines of communication open on an as needed basis.

Counter offers from your current employer are not a good idea to consider. The trust has been broken and they may only be keeping you around until they find your replacement. Remember the reasons why you went looking for a new position in the first place? Was it compensation, a more challenging position, stronger leadership, gain knowledge in a new industry, etc.?

4. Take some time off, this is very important. This may be your last vacation for a year. Tie up any lose ends and relax, you deserve it.Now, the transition

From day one, it is important to read the culture about your new company. Your first goal is to analyze the new company, management, peers and direct reports and to identify their culture and style. This is an important step in understanding the similarities and potential differences.  Be a good researcher, watch and listen carefully and ask questions of your new colleagues to gather this important information:

1.  Find out early on who you can and cannot trust, who your allies are and who are not. Depending upon your position, some may not be pleased about your presence while others will be relieved to have you on board. At this point, it is important to build your alliances, develop business relationships with your peers, direct reports, boss, community and clients to build trust and credibility quickly. Be careful not to move to quickly without building your alliance, you could alienate and undermine some. The key is to develop cooperation and support.

2. Be certain that your goals and objectives are in line with the company and management. What business results are expected, by whom, and in what priority is critical? The key to this step is to establish agreements among all parties involved. What does success look like and how will it be measured? If your boss has not covered this with you within the first month, take it upon yourself to create an agreement and share it with him for approval.

3. You may be motivated to hit the ground running with the best intentions and make a big impact early on. This can result in a lack of focus on what is important today with little significance actually occurring. It is important to balance the short terms goals with the long term goals. Create an action plan to manage your time to successfully accomplish your goals.

4. It is important to create a clear vision and communicate it to your boss, peers and direct reports and other key players and establish formal and informal communication channels to keep the initiatives visible and the message clear.

5. Balancing the needs of a fast-paced and visible position is challenging. You will be pulled between needing to pace yourself and still achieve impressive results while staying in top performance. It is to everyone’s benefit that you retain your curiosity, enthusiasm and energy over time. The trick will be to deliver short term goals while having the freedom to take on new challenges, develop new leadership skills and to keep you learning and position yourself to attain personal recognition and rewards for your accomplishments.

I wish you success in your new position and remember that this is a transition phase. Remember to read and understand your new culture, build alliances, determine goals/expectations and focus on the most critical projects but keep your eye on the long-term projects, create a vision, and keep your momentum.•••

Jennifer Laxton is the CEO, executive coach and strategic workforce planner with ESA in Santa Rosa www.esa.com. ESA is an executive search and consulting company. You can reach her at 707-217-4535 or jklaxton@esa.com.