As I waited to board my plane this morning, I watched as three year old twins waited with their mother in eager anticipation for their Daddy to walk through the arrivals gate. The excitement prevalent in the twins’ faces and bodies brought smiles to all of us watching. When he finally emerged, the squeals of delight as they hurled themselves at him, in a beautiful reunion of arms and legs and hugs and tears, moistened the eyes of more than one fellow traveller.
Airports are great places to witness hellos and goodbyes. Transitions. Beginnings.
And to witness the full-scale of human emotions that go with these transitions.
It got me thinking about goodbyes and hellos.
We are not particularly comfortable with goodbyes and endings. We are much better with hellos and beginnings.
But if we turn to nature, the wisest of teachers, we see beginnings cannot happen unless we allow endings take place.
Winter, a time of stillness, precedes the new beginning, rebirth and buds of spring.
Forest fires which viciously burn so new green shoots can emerge from the blackened earth.
The natural cycle of species becoming extinct whilst there is concurrently the emergence of new species.
The cycle of life is elegantly and effortlessly displayed in nature through metaphorical and literal death and rebirth.
So why do organisations tend to resist death and endings like my six year old resists going to bed? If we were to look honestly and compassionately at what is dead (or dying), we wouldn’t cling to it. We would let it go.
The job which has been disestablished.
The product which no longer engages the consumer.
The relationship which has served its purpose.
The culture which is no longer relevant for the organisation’s operating environment.
The CEO who can’t let go of the reigns and move gracefully into retirement.
And BTW, FYI…I’m no different to those I coach.
Research backs up the tendency of companies to linger. One study* showed that as a business ages, the average total return to shareholders tends to decline. The seller would have received a higher price had it sold earlier.
Fear has a lot to do with it. Fear of the unknown. Fear of what we will replace ‘it’ with. Fear of what others will think or how they will react. Fear of failure. Fear of not mattering somehow. Fear of feeling discomfort and pain – an inevitable part of living a full and rich life.
Is there something that you are holding on to which, if you had the courage to let go of, could make room for a new beginning?
What do you need to let go of?
A brand or product?
Even an entire organisation?
If you slow down, take a metaphorical and literal deep breath, and listen to your inner voice or intuition, the answer will come.
What could you say goodbye to, in order to welcome in a new beginning?
*Richard Foster and Sarah Kaplan, Creative Destruction: Why Companies That Are Built to Last Underperform the Market—and How to Successfully Transform Them, New York: Currency, 2001.