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Endings and beginnings – a personal perspective

Olivier Herold

10 September 2020

CEO insights: Is it ‘complete’ or just ‘over’? Completed endings enable new beginnings

I’ve got so many reactions when something comes to an end. I find myself in a complex place, where past and future meet. There’s a dynamic and sometimes explosive mixture of emotions and thoughts. There’s excitement about the future mixed with sadness at saying goodbyes.

Endings can be intense, at the same time as creating excitement for new beginnings to come. Recent endings have been making me take a long, hard look at where I stand on endings and letting go. I can imagine that whichever business you’re in right now, you’ve been going through a set of endings of your own as new ways of working emerge and new strategies and structures take shape in response to ‘Covid world’ and what it means for organisations and the people in them.

What’s been on my mind over the last few weeks is what’s been important on a human level?

Acknowledgement

  • Each person being able to say what the ending means for them and to be heard with respect.
  • Realising there are some moments you only get once – say what needs to be said in so far as you can (or as far as the situation allows)
  • Acknowledging the wide variety of reactions people have when they go through change.
  • Offer clear messages and respectful listening whether the conversations are about exciting future possibilities or about saying appreciative goodbyes.
  • Value and honour what people have given, the efforts they made, the contributions they gave, the qualities they brought. An ending is a unique time. When there isn’t going to be any more of something, whatever there has been becomes quite special.

Dignity

  • People who are leaving an organisation deserve to leave with dignity and be supported as far as possible to find a good next chapter  
  • Supporting ourselves and each other  - with resources, communication and just being there for one another
  • Giving people some choices around the ending process where possible. However the ending has come about, having some choice about timing or communications can be helpful. That could be very practical (e.g. around leaving dates) or more emotional.
  • Giving people space and time to say goodbye and choose if and how they want to stay in touch.

Honesty

  • Get very honest - not all endings are happy. It’s tempting to put a gloss over those, to ignore the human pain and suffering involved and to try to ‘make it better’. It doesn’t work. Better simply try to be an empathic witness to any elements of pain and disappointment. Let it be how it is. In that space, where you’re not fighting reality, peace can emerge. Maybe slowly, maybe baby steps but it will grow.

Feelings

  • Give your feelings space. Listen to your own feelings and those of the other people involved. Find a compassionate and patient place inside you and listen with all your might. From that place, better decisions come about.

Making sense of it

When I understand the factors that brought endings about, I feel more able to learn any lessons I need to learn and to encourage others to do the same with courage and trust. What helps me accept change is something about letting go and accepting things I can’t control, not spending energy on them.

  • Tell the story – figuring out where this fits into the story of my organisation and how to make sense of it as part of a complex system of change, beginnings and endings. Giving everyone the opportunity to understand where this experience fits in their own story.
  • People who leave making sense of preparing to leave: transmitting, receiving and giving before they go, identifying their future options
    People who stay making sense of how to grieve and how to move on

How are you handling endings right now? How do you make them ‘complete’?