For two years, I had the extraordinary experience of writing for a work team put together by the president of a company to develop something really new. It was a phenomenal and humbling experience for me to observe a small and capable team taking a vision and fleshing it out for the broadest application possible.
The conference room had whiteboard walls where big ideas and wild possibilities were sketched out. Then the conversations expanded, adaptations were made, others (both inside the company and out) added ideas, and a process was born that could have tremendous impact on the company’s overall mission.
However…things can change. The budget tightens; the team breaks up; the company gets sold. Or maybe it just wasn’t the right time. Sometimes, a work has to be put on hold or transferred to the hands of another team or… fill in the blank.
One by one, the members of the team take other jobs, retire, or move into other assignments within the company. It happens.
Is it as if this great creative thing never happened? Absolutely not!
One day, it will be the next right time, with the next adequate resources, and with the next trusted team. Never having to start at ground zero again…because of this team…and this time…and the work brilliantly accomplished together.
Somebody will always be the last person out, but each takes their memories with them…their experience…the wisdom gained…the relationships. Those are not left behind or placed in boxes. Those intangibles are the most real gains of our work lives.
In the long-running TV comedy series, The Office, Dwight Schrute watered the plant. No one noticed until he left the job, and the plant began to die. In the finale of the show’s last season, his office mates replanted it outside. What a great metaphor in thinking about the varying gifts each of us brings to our jobs. At times, in our workday world, we don’t realize all that our colleagues bring to the team or company…until they are gone (re-assigned or in a job/situation elsewhere). It’s a good thing to remember and celebrate…and then…there comes a time when moving forward is the order of the day.
[Sidebar: To that precious one who did keep the plants alive for this team, all the others are still living and relatively healthy. Sorry about this one. Thanks for all the beauty you brought to this office.]
While going through this process of chronic transition, a friend has recommended a great book by William Bridges: Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes. Bridges talks the reader through the three different phases of transition and gives practical strategies for dealing with these sometimes confusing and painful times.
“We resist transition not because we can’t accept the change, but because we can’t accept letting go of that piece of ourselves that we have to give up when and because the situation has changed.” – William Bridges
You can only look back for so long. At some point you have to move forward. Moving forward is a good thing… Besides getting on with our life and work, it gives impetus to let go of whatever would hold us back whether good or bad. We learn from both and take both with us moving forward…hopefully in such a way that we celebrate what was good and we take heart in and wisdom from whatever the hard experience we leave behind. We move on.
In this last day of packing up and moving out, two little team-building signs from a by-gone era surfaced in the bottom of a drawer. The irony wasn’t lost. For you who were on this team and any who find themselves in a similar situation, I’m cheering for you. You, indeed, are great! Of course, no team today can ever really claim to be creators of a ground zero innovation or body of work. For sure, we all stand on the shoulders of giants.
I wrote a series of articles on Jon Acuff’s book Do Over – Rescue Monday, reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck. [Two pieces are referenced below.] Acuff gives great counsel to anyone struggling in the process of moving forward. I’d like to close with a couple of his quotes on moving forward.
“Master the invisible skills – Go to work; add value; own your attitude.“ – Jon Acuff
“Is living with the chaos of a decision easy? Not really… I try to create [chaos] sometimes as a way to hide from something else I’m afraid of. When real chaos comes…don’t fight it. If anything, lean into it. ‘Easy’ and ‘adventure’ very rarely travel together.” – Jon Acuff
What has helped/is helping you to deal with a current (or past) disappointing work situation? Please share your story in comments below.
Transition: Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges
The Challenge of the Prolonged Neutral Zone Era – (Insight from William Bridges, Managing Transitions) – Really good synopsis on this troublesome prolonged transition