How to Prepare for an Executive Sabbatical or Planned Leave

Taking a planned leave or sabbatical requires careful planning to avoid any negative impacts on your business. vChief has been providing guidance to our clients on how best to prepare since 2016. Here are three steps we recommend you begin to take starting 3 to 6 months before you leave to ensure a successful outcome.

1. Assess Your Workload

The first step to a successful sabbatical or planned leave is to take an honest assessment of how you spend your time and your own impact. Recreate a typical week or month (it might be helpful to refer to your calendar) and write down everything you did. Next, assign a level of priority to each area by evaluating it according to three criteria: impact, risk, and capacity requirements.


What’s the impact of each specific area of work stopping or continuing on the organization? If a particular type of work stops, does it become a bottleneck, leaving a whole segment of your workforce hanging with nothing to do? Will it put the development of a new product line in jeopardy? Is there a major advertising campaign under development that can’t proceed without your input? Consider the effects of a work stoppage down the line in six months or a year.


What’s the risk internally and externally across the business of that work stopping? Will there be a significant financial or other impact on the organization? Do you risk losing a client or a major supplier? Do you risk missing established targets that put funding at risk?

Capacity Requirements

What are the capacity requirements for the work that needs to continue? What are the skills, relationships, and social capital required to continue that work? Would it be possible to bring in an external person to do that work, or do you need to rely on someone internally?

2. Decide What Work Needs to Continue and Who Will Be Responsible

It’s OK to let some of your workload go on hold while you’re gone. If the impact and the risk are low enough, it may not be worth the disruption to another team member’s routine to add those tasks to their plate. Similarly, there will always be things that no one else but you can do, like making public appearances or giving the go-ahead on a major new advertising strategy being developed.

But for the items that are high impact or high risk, identify the appropriate people within your organization who can take over those responsibilities while you’re gone. It’s usually best to redistribute the work to several employees so you don’t overwhelm anyone.

In some cases, you may also need to promote someone internally to take on a significant portion of your responsibilities on an interim basis — along with a temporary title change and increase in salary.

3. Consider Hiring a vChief to Fill in Where No One Else Can

When there’s no one available internally with the right skill set or capacity to take on high-risk, high-impact responsibilities, you may need to bring on a new team member temporarily.

At vChief, we specialize in filling urgent staffing needs with high quality fractional talent. We have a large network of talent with an average of 12 years of experience in senior leadership roles in strategy, management, operations, finance, human resources, and project management over a wide range of industries. We can facilitate the placement of a seasoned C-suite executive with you in as little as three weeks, including an in-depth evaluation of your needs through our skilled matchmaking service.

With a narrowly defined role and scope of work, developed by our team, a vChief is able to hit the ground running and make an immediate impact. You can bring on a vChief for the exact amount of time you need, down to as few as 20 hours per month or up to full-time. With no long-term contract, you can cancel with just 30 days’ notice.

The Unexpected Benefits of a Well-Planned Leave

Taking the time to plan out your leave of absence and make sure your most important responsibilities are covered will give you the peace of mind you need to take a complete break from your role. And you may even find the process of preparing for a leave has unexpected benefits.

When I took an extended vacation where I committed to not opening my email or doing any work, I had to temporarily let go of my role in matching clients with our talent — a task I had held onto for way too long. It was a revelation to return and find out that the team member who stepped in for me was actually better than me at the task! Letting go of that role gave me more time to do what I do best: be the face of the company and promote it outwardly.

Schedule your free consultation with vChief today to find out how a fractional executive can help make your upcoming sabbatical or planned leave a success.

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