Leading on your way out

Leaving well is a full-time job. The more invested you have been, the more intentionally it requires to end well.

Great leadership is required at the beginning and end, the takeoff and the landing. If you’re transitioning out of a career, a home, a town, or into a new season: lead.

Most things don’t end well. Why? 

  • Why are we grouchy and foggy at the end of a vacation?
  • Why do people seem to fade away from their jobs?
  • When other people are leaving, why does the speed seem to take us by surprise?

Because we aren’t ending on purpose. 

Seasons come to an end. It is uncomfortable, so we often avoid it. Maybe we try to sneak out the back. Perhaps we’re afraid of too much attention on us.

Last summer was a season of transition. We changed homes, towns, time zones, churches, jobs, and schools.

When I announced I was leaving staff, I very quickly became unnecessary in meetings. After all, decisions were being made that impacted life after I was gone. I was needed to tie up a few loose ends, but for the most part an exceptional team was picking things up.

I decided that ending well would be a full time job. I would help my colleagues, friends, and family transition. Since, I’ve watched other leaders transition and observed a thing or two about full-time finishing. Here’s a few ways you can lead on your way out:

1. Clarify the message.

You won’t be able to control the narrative (I promise). Still, a clear message helps everybody involved. Decide what you’ll say, and stick to it. You can help everybody staying (and anybody going with you) have a little less wobble if your message is consistent.

2. Create moments.

Moments are opportunities to attend to the reality of what is happening. It gives you a chance to be with people, to help them name their own feelings of gratitude and loss. Moments help us commemorate change. Goodbye’s suck – do it anyway. It helps everybody move on.

3. Personally communicate your gratitude for people staying and belief in the vision you’re leaving behind.

I watched my friend Clay Scroggins do this so well last year. It seems the last words he wanted people to hear was that he believed in them. Well done, Clay.

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