Most leaders I know tend to focus more on beginnings than endings. They enjoy launching new products and services. It is often energizing to step into unknown territory or see an idea move toward fruition.
Endings are generally less welcome. We typically associate them with failure or loss. In some cases, endings are mishandled and this only magnifies our anxiety.
Suppose endings were viewed differently? Could it make a difference in how leaders see themselves and their work?
At a conference this past week, I watched and listened as a senior executive formally ended his tenure with an organization and offered a farewell address from the stage. He beautifully modeled the concept of ending well. Here is what I learned.
First, he acknowledged how fear of endings can, and does, inhibit growth. When we avoid addressing the loss of personal passion for our work we unwittingly stop learning new things and may even become more careless with what we do especially well.
Second, by propping up a product that has outlived its market usefulness we deprive ourselves and customers of what’s next. This same idea applies to our personal career path, especially when we have outgrown the position.
Third, we no longer enjoy real freedom – something he defined as “thinking about ourselves in an unrestrained way.” A fear of endings can prevent creativity, innovation, and risk-taking.
It requires personal courage to acknowledge when something should end or we should be “done with it.” Because fear is such a powerful influence we often remain stuck, unwilling to even consider an alternative.
Let me emphasize that I am not advocating endings as an excuse that avoids personal or professional responsibilities. That would mean marriage commitments and contracts with clients don’t matter if we simply tire of the relationships. I’m referring to the times when endings are truly the best, or perhaps the only, option.
What do you need to end in your life or business so you are free to try something new? What should you say “done” to so you can say “yes” to what’s next?