As I mentioned earlier, this is Part Two of a two-part series called Leading While Leaving and today, I’m talking about things you must never do. As you can imagine, this is actually a very long list, so I’m going to keep it manageable for you. I will focus on what I think are several of the larger items. If you avoid these, then you will avoid some the ones we don’t cover in detail.
This isn’t theoretical. I had an opportunity to live this. I’m so confident of the results that I’m able to say this will help you too. If you did not listen to the previous episode where I talk about the things you should always do, you can listen to it here.
Leaving isn’t easy. Leading while leaving is even more difficult. So how do you do it in a way that is beneficial for your team, for you, for your leader, and for both your current company and the one that you will work for next? Well, it starts with making a choice. And this is what I mean: you choose the outcome.
But Mark, you don’t understand. They ended my career. Maybe you feel like they intentionally made a mess of my life! They treated me unfairly or simply they hurt me. It’s important to grieve. I said in the last episode that I would come back and address this topic. And I will do that. Because this is real, I’ll talk about the five stages of grief next and how it relates to leaving a role in the next episode.
Never Forget That You Choose
But more immediately, I want to talk about your choice. No one and that means NO ONE, gets to decide how you respond to unfavorable circumstances. You are the sole proprietor of your attitude, your response, and your effort. Because no one can take your choice. This sucks and I hate my life or this sucks and I know that I’m bound for brighter days. I choose to live for brighter days.
Never Blame Others
Never blame others. It’s the easiest and, at the same time, the most difficult of the “nevers.” It’s the easiest because it’s entirely up to you and it’s the most difficult because many times, we feel a need to identify a source of our pain and lay it at their feet.
Your pain is real. It’s likely that people did not treat you in a way that is acceptable and maybe the blame for something that wasn’t your fault fell on you. This could all be fact. Indisputable. And much of it is water under the bridge. You can’t go back. As a result, looking for someone to blame is not going to relieve your pain.
Here’s a complimentary thought: you must assume that everyone is operating with the best of intent. Whoa! That’s heavy and worth considering for a moment. Regardless of how intelligent this particular change seems, if you stop and consider that everyone involved is doing the best they can, it orientates you and forces a different perspective. This is massively valuable as you consider your exit. I love this thought and attribute my ability to leave well as a result of thinking the best about people, even those with whom I disagreed.
Never Entertain Bitterness
Never allow your heart to get hard because of how someone may treat you. You must not entertain bitterness. You have likely heard the definition of bitterness as drinking poison hoping someone else will die. Uh, that’s not going to work and it will make you much more miserable…and miserable to be around as well. Does this surprise you – right, I didn’t think so!
We are all guilty. Even though we know better, it doesn’t stop us from trying to find relief taking a little sip of the poison. I want the best for you, so I must warn you of an unintended effect. If you drink enough poison, it will change you into a person that you don’t want to become. As a result, you will find yourself being less transparent, less vulnerable, and less authentic. I know that this is not the result you intended, so leave the poison capped tightly…and definitely out of the reach of children…and adults!
Never Allow Your Pain To Spill Out
Never allow your hurt and pain to spill over onto those closest to you. Contain it, don’t deny it. We have a tendency to be our worst selves with those who love and care deeply about us. I don’t have to tell you that they weren’t responsible for this. So, when you think about how unfair your experience has been, do not forget how unfair it is to punish your loved ones for it.
Never Question Your Value
I’m not sure there’s a most important “never” here, but if there was, it might be this one. Never allow this chain of events to lead you to question your value. Yes, question the quality of your decision making. Absolutely challenge your thought process that governed your behavior over the last six months. Ask other leaders to assist you in analyzing ways you could improve.
However, all of that is very different than saying this sucks, so I must suck. You can’t afford to take this personally because that’s like slipping the lid off the jar of poison to take a sip. If you fall into this trap, then you might go through this process and fail to learn. It’s hard to learn anything when you are constantly questioning your self-worth or inherent ability to make a contribution.
Never Give Head Space To Negativity
We all have our fair share of detractors. When you are in a challenging spot, the voices that want to drag you down seem to get turned up a bit! My recommendation is to tune it out. There may even be those who want you to compromise your leadership and respond with anger. They may even want you to contemplate how you might repay those responsible.
Never Compromise Your Integrity
What’s worse is that you might be in a position where you could. You must never compromise your integrity. It’s a slippery slope when you start contemplating paybacks. Pretty soon, you can justify your behavior as a reasonable response to the wrong(s) you suffered. You will think that stapler really does belong to you even though it doesn’t.
I experienced this. When I was leaving, there was a way that I could compromise and walk out with something that belonged to the company. After 23 years, you can bet that it would have been easy to justify in the eyes of many people. But I knew if I did that, I would be doing something that I knew wasn’t right even if I could legitimately justify it…or rather “get away with it.” Others had done it, but that didn’t make it right.
Never Stop Learning
It might not feel like it, but this environment is learning rich. Never stop learning. You have an opportunity to discover more about yourself and what you are capable of in the most difficult of proving grounds. Everything is on the line and there is no guarantee about how this will all turn out. Don’t jeopardize it by wallowing in self-pity.
NEVER, NEVER, NEVER TALK TRASH
Okay, I know I said this earlier when I told you that the most important “never” was to never question your value. That one is huge, but this one is even bigger. So if you can remember two of them, this one is more important: NEVER, NEVER, NEVER…NEVER! talk trash about the organization, your team, your manager, the executives, anyone or anything associated with that organization. Don’t do it!
To be clear, I’m not saying you have to praise it or them. I’m not saying that you can’t have an honest assessment that drives a conclusion in your mind. 99% of the time, there’s no need for you to share that. There are exceptions and sometimes that info is required to prevent damage to shareholders or stakeholders, but this is pretty rare. Your experience is real and valid. Sharing how awful they are isn’t going to help your situation.
I experienced this recently in one of the groups I participate in where senior leaders gather to share their best efforts and information in pursuit of their next role. It was honestly quite shocking when it unfolded. This individual was not just disgruntled, but vocal about many things this company had done wrong. No one was safe from the ire being released.
After telling us how others believed this person should be the next CEO and proceeding to go on and on about how an unfair process resulted in termination, the facts were quickly clarified. Frankly, the whole thing made this person look silly.
Clearly, many of us have legitimate issues with how a particular process unfolded and the impact it had on us; however, if you aren’t cautious about the level of detail you share, and the way in which you share it, you run the same risk. Don’t fall prey to the temptation to throw a company or someone else under the bus for being an idiot. It doesn’t change anything and it may even damage your reputation.
Remember this: in spite of the position that you find yourself, you are demonstrating a desire to change. You wouldn’t have listened today if you didn’t think you could improve. And you are becoming a better leader because of it.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to leave a role. These tips will help you keep your head on straight during a confusing and trying time. If you have some thoughts, then take a moment and share them with me. You got this and I believe in you!
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