Retail Observer

March 2018

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Page 43 of 67

RETAILOBSERVER.COM MARCH 2018 44 T hings come to an end. Always. We act like it's not true and we almost must persist in our delusion, but the truth is there are beginnings and endings. Some we instigate, and some we just get to receive and respond. Though the old song "Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover" suggests that slipping out the back or making a new plan are the most preferable, I've seen a few inelegant endings, and they aren't pretty. Sometimes, I help my clients with these endings and beginnings and most often, the endings can be fraught with complex emotions and thoughts. Recently, I coached someone to leave his current position amid a challenging environment where some in the organization had put forth a "vote of no confidence". The leadership was chaotic and changing; he was devastated and disappointed. Amid confusion and feelings of failure, he decided to leave. "Let's figure out how you can leave with grace," I suggested. "Let's have an elegant ending." Years ago, I had an extremely inelegant ending, so I know how not to do this. I was young and professionally immature, for certain, but before I stomped out in a blaze of yelling and name calling (oy— this is tough to admit here, years later), the pressure of my job, my dissatisfaction, the miscommunication had escalated to the point where my behaving gracefully or elegantly didn't even occur to me. It was raining. No, it was pouring rain. The flat streets pooled with 10-inch puddles easy to bottom-out in a little Mazda GLC. I had stopped by my now-former employer to pick up my last paycheck, and I was literally driving away as far as I could get (think South Florida to Seattle, Washington) without a plan, a job, or much of a destination. I'd made a lot of mistakes in that job, with my youthful arrogance and sense of righteousness, when I finally blew up at the suggestion they might withhold my money if I didn't do xyz before I left. I did finally leave with my check in-hand, likely because they just wanted me to go... but not before burning a bunch of bridges and bystanders along the way. Not pretty. For three years, I didn't apply for any jobs in my field because I knew, eventually, no matter how great my résumé looked or how well I interviewed, someone was going to ask me about my inelegant ending in Florida. And, of course, they did. Sometimes, you just gotta go—I get that—yet if I could go back and do it differently, I'd do it the way my client did when he left for his next horizon and his next better thing. • Learn from the experience. What went wrong? If you began with a sense of excitement and adventure and goodwill, what went off track? Reflect and assess. For my client, they didn't ask for help early enough, or at all. I asked, "What would you do differently if you were to begin again?" That's a way to help yourself move forward and not to make the same mistakes again. • Practice goodwill and take the high road. Don't burn bridges. Be honest, tell the truth, but just acknowledge that it's time to move on. This might mean you leave some things unsaid. Walk away feeling like you behaved with integrity—that you owned what was yours and you left what was not. • Have the conversations you need to have with those who matter. My client's experience wasn't all negative. I asked them to choose the people who were the most important and to have a conversation—say thank you or good-bye, or whatever feels right. Leave those people the way you'd prefer to be left. • Set the next person or project up for success. Your story, or the story of you, may live on after you're gone. If you've been there a long time and have created a legacy, it's about defining how you want to be remembered, by whom, and in what manner. It's also about taking pride in leaving someplace better for your having been in it. I can't say, at 24, that I made anything better in my dramatic exit. I think I positively impacted some of the individual people with whom I worked, but there's no particular legacy or positive mark I made on that place. Though that's a little sad to me, I can learn from it; if I'd been more elegant about my letting go, it might've been different. My client tried their best to finish some projects, to tie up loose ends, to be honest about what was yet to be done. In the end, we get to practice how we want to begin and end every- thing. That includes our work, our relationships, and ultimately, our lives. ELEGANT ENDINGS Libby Wagner Culture Coach RO Libby Wagner, author of The Influencing Option: the Art of Building a Profit Culture in Business, works with clients to help them create and sustain profit cultures.

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