I watched the Oprah Winfrey Show Wednesday, where author, speaker, spiritualist and former weekly Oprah expert Iyanla Vanzant apologized profusely for how she exited from the popular daily talk show. Vanzant was introduced to Oprah’s legion of viewers in the late 1990s during the 12th season, and for a year and a half with roughly 20 appearances, she developed a nationwide reputation as a no-nonsense, quick-witted self-help guru. (Vanzant admitted that the appearances brought with them a level of fame, money and success for which she wasn’t quite prepared.) Eventually, her popularity and sass caught the eye of news veteran Barbara Walters, who wooed Vanzant with promise of her own show – one that lasted only a year.
Since her departure from the Oprah, Vanzant and Winfrey hadn’t spoken in 11 years. The intent of Wednesday’s show was to dispel rumors circulating around how and why Vanzant left the show. And while there have been a variety of personal and emotional comments online on everything from the authenticity of Vanzant’s apology to perspectives on gravity of the breakup, I believe there are specific professional lessons that can be learned from their relationship on how to leave a job or an organization.
Here are a few tips for planning a proper exit strategy:
Weigh your options. If you’re good at what you do, expect that competitors in your industry are going to be interested in hiring you away from your present company. That’s a benefit of working by excellence. And as a professional, you should always know your worth and how you are regarded in the industry. So even if you’re happy in your position, you should continue to entertain offers from recruiters and interview when you’re not looking. It gives you a refreshed outlook on the demands of your industry, expands your network and gives you a sense of what you can negotiate in your current position. But unlike the person who is unemployed, there’s no pressure to make a decision. If an offer does interest you, it’s important to fully examine the terms of the deal beyond title and compensation. Is it an organization you like? Is it one that mirrors your professional values and expectations? Are they interested in supporting your long-term professional goals? If Vanzant had asked herself any of those questions, she may have reevaluated her decision to leave. She also would have been clear on the expectations of her new employer.
Check the ego and check with your mentors. Situations like these are a perfect example of why mentors are so critical to the advancement of your career. They see beyond your ego, the fascination with your talent, or the intoxicating feeling of being courted by a major player in the industry. They will force you to examine the important issues that will impact your success rate. They may not have all the answers and can’t make the decision for you, but they can offer an objective opinion and perspective.
Make a decision not an ultimatum. After you fully weigh the benefits of both positions, you should be able to make a solid decision about which would be more professionally fulfilling and better in line with your career goals. If you’re not clear on your goals then based on your assessment, you should be able to determine which position would offer you a better opportunity to grow and develop your talent. An ultimatum makes for a sexy story line in film, but it is poor business strategy. Yes, in the end you may be able to get more money or a bigger title, but it’s also a gamble where you relinquish control to random circumstances like the mood of the person on that day or the size of their ego. Ultimatums also damage relationships. No one likes to feel they’ve been bullied or pressured to make a decision they were either uncomfortable with or unprepared handle.
What do you think, did Iyanla make a mistake in how she left Oprah’s show? What would you have done differently? Leave your comments below.