Tis the season of kids heading back to school, starting college and embarking on new beginnings. My heart goes out to friends who are sending a child off to live on their own for the first time. Even though it is an exciting time, and you want this experience for them, the fear of the unknown and the sadness of closing a chapter can lead to quite an emotional stew in the hearts of parents.
Letting go is hard. And not just with our children. It is no less difficult for organizations to let go of their “babies” . . . programs and services for which they have such fond memories. The difference is, those programs and the people in them usually aren’t clamoring to move on to the next phase like our children are. No, in organizations it’s the leader’s responsibility to decide it is time to embark on a new chapter. And that emotional stew I mentioned parents experiencing . . . yep, leaders get it in spades. Unfortunately, in some cases, leaders never take that step toward new possibilities because of how painful it is to move beyond what they have known, and their organizations suffer as a result.
Maybe it’s time to reframe this whole letting go thing. Maybe rather than mourn the loss of what has been, we need to celebrate the journey that has brought us to the point that we are ready to take the next step. Closing the door on a chapter doesn’t mean it wasn’t important or valuable in shaping the organization and moving it forward. It simply means the organization has grown to the point that it is ready to take the next step, and that’s a good thing.
I serve an organization that has been around since 1853. Rest assured, we look quite different today than we did 163 years ago, but the values this organization was built on are still alive and well in our work today. We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us and honor what they accomplished, not by never changing but by taking advantage of the amazing opportunities that have resulted from their efforts.
As a parent, we’re a bit sad when our kids spread their wings and fly, but that’s what kids are supposed to do. That’s what organizations are supposed to do too. Even amid the challenges and chaos and uncertainty of the world today, opportunities abound for your organization. You can’t reach for the future when you are clutching to the past . . . maybe it’s time to take a deep breath and let go.