To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap; a time to kill, a time to heal; a time to laugh, a time to weep.
Ecclesiastes, from which that quote is taken, wasn't conceived as a guide to doing business - but maybe it should have been.
Leadership coach Henry Cloud starts there, says The Globe and Mail writer Harvey Schachter, to claim that we need to become as good at ending things - products, services, projects, relationships, or even organizations - as we are at starting or innovating. That's a sobering thought as the New Year begins. But it's also a path to greater effectiveness.
In many ways it's harder to end things than to begin them. It's even harder to end them fully, professionally and well. We're afraid of the unknown: what will our organization be like without this staff member, that working group, those partners? We may not want to let go of a process or commitment that has served us well in the past. Life brings us enough painful endings without going out of our way to create more.
Wisdom from the garden
Leaders often overlook or underestimate the impact of ending the right things, Cloud believes. But in the garden, correct pruning helps a bush or plant reach its full potential. The same is true of organizations.
He notes that branches or stems should be pruned for three reasons:
To sum up, we can't have great new beginnings without necessary, natural and beneficial endings. But there are good reasons why endings are so hard. Acknowledging the emotions behind our reluctance to end anything will help bring us to the point where we can finally take pruning shears in hand for the benefit of our own well-being and that of the organizations we serve.