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  • Writer's pictureDavid Tong

The year draws to a close and some thoughts about endings

Updated: Mar 23, 2021

Endings are important in organisations. The end of a business cycle, of a project or the relationship with a valued colleague are all events that need to be handled carefully. With the year drawing to a close, I felt December could be a good time to think about endings.

Endings aren’t easy – just ask the Beatles. Their brilliant, creative decade of collaboration ended messily.

Was George Harrison’s contribution ever properly recognised? Did they create an agreement where they could work solo as well as record with the band? Did they even discuss these issues? Some immediate lessons here, perhaps.

Don’t expect simple, tidy endings

Paul had tried to tie things up neatly with their last recorded song ‘The End’ on the Abbey Road album. This finished with the couplet:

"And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make.”

They did all become friends again and I’m sure this involved someone taking a risk and showing their love for the group which was then reciprocated. However, the end of the Beatles illustrates that it can be foolish to expect simple, tidy endings. If we want to avoid pain the best we can do is to think ahead, address tensions and actually care about how we want things to work out.

Every end is also a beginning

This is a cliché, but in business we want this to be true. We want our project groups to come up with great concepts that can then be handed-over and baked into BAU. But with this type of ending, such as the conclusion of a phase or part of a process, we need to work carefully to make an effective transition. Have you tested or piloted your ideas? Is your documentation clear? Are your stakeholders ready? In other words, has your ending made it easier for those who must now start to make their contribution?

Begin with the end in mind

There is a great piece of advice about endings from David Peterson who is Head of Coaching at Google. If you are helping a colleague with their development, Peterson recommends that your discussions should - start fast – go deep – end strong. A strong ending is one where your colleague can achieve meaningful, lasting change and to do this they must be able to answer these questions positively:

Insight: Do they know what they need to develop?

Motivation: Are they willing to invest the time and energy that it takes?

Capability: Do they have the skills and knowledge required?

Real-world practice: Do they take advantage of opportunities to use their skills?

Accountability: Do they feel accountable, to themselves or others?

Because these questions are so powerful I think they can be shared at the start of a development conversation. Why not be clear about where you want to get to at the beginning of your work together? Stephen Covey sums this up by saying ‘begin with the end in mind’.

Do you have any more thoughts about endings?

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