I’ve tried to learn from every manager I’ve had in the past. Some have been good. Some have been not so good. (If I’m honest, I’m sure there are plenty of people who place me in both categories.)
My favorite managers have been people who wanted to invest in my thinking and creativity—even if my formal job at the time was very mundane and predictable. One way they did this was by giving me reading assignments that opened me to new ways of thinking, new perspectives, and helped me see the world through new lenses. I’ve tried to carry on that tradition now that I manage and lead teams of people.
Driving people along a production schedule is one thing. Teaching people to think differently multiplies their value and improves the strength of the team.
One of the books that absolutely wrecked my thinking the first time I read it was, Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud. This book taught me that success will produce more opportunities than any one organization or leader can manage. The best leaders know when to “prune” their business so that growth continues to be possible.
Some people believe that failure is the biggest thing to fear in business. I don’t. I think the biggest thing to fear in business is too much success.
The temptation is to run after everything. Most leaders and organizations want to fuel the fire of anything and everything that is remotely successful. The only thing this accomplishes is that everything will be on fire and you’ll be consumed by your own success eventually.
Success shouldn’t consume you. Rather, it should build momentum for future growth. The only way this can be true is to bring some things to an end—even things that may have been historically successful.
It’s scary to think about, but great leaders do scary things regularly and often.
Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:
“In your business and in your life, don’t just “cut back” and think that you have pruned. Pruning is strategic. It is directional and forward-looking.” (pg 45)
“All of your precious resources—time, energy, talent, passion, money—should only go to the buds of your life or your business that are the best, are fixable, and are indispensable.” (pg 47)
“Come to grips with this truth, that your life and your business produce more buds than you can nurture, and you will end some things more readily and easily. It won’t register as so traumatic, nor will your brain resist as if something is wrong.” (pg 67)
“Also, [people who refuse necessary endings] want a world where they have no limits. They want to believe that they have enough time and energy to gather people, products, and activities infinitely and never have to end any of them. They do not want it to be true that at some point, they run out of time and energy and have to make hard choices" (pg 69)
"[People who refuse necessary endings] want a limitless life where time and space are not realities.” (pg 69)
“The first step that will motivate you to do what is necessary is to see that what you are doing has no hope of getting what you want. When that happens, you will instantly feel an epiphany. You realize that to get where you want to get, you must make a change.” (pg 106)
“False hope buys us more time to spend on something that is not going to work and keeps us from seeing the reality that is at once our biggest problem and our greatest opportunity.” (pg 112)
“Creating urgency around necessary endings is key to what happens with your time and energy.” (pg 220)
“Part of maturity is getting to the place where we can let go of one wish in order to have another. The immature mind ‘wants it all.’ But the truth is that the most valuable things come with a cost. To win, we have to give up some things for others. So if you feel resistance about executing a certain ending, figure out what two or more desires are in conflict, admit to yourself that you can have only one, and then ask yourself this question: Which one am I willing to give up to have the other one?” (pg 224)
“You can’t get attached to any outcome. If you do, you won’t ever be able to do what’s best for the health and future of the business. Because doing the right thing sometimes can threaten all potential outcomes.” (pg 225)
“This is a fundamental truth about endings: you have to be able to face losing some things you might want in order to be free to do the right thing. If you can’t, you are stuck.” (pg 226)
“Your next step always depends on two ingredients: how well you are maximizing where you are right now and how ready you are to do what is necessary to get to the next place.” (pg 291)
I want my team to build into their thinking that good things must come to an end and some things that failed in the past should be reconsidered. We can’t do everything—no matter how large we grow or how much money is in our budget. But what we can do is ensure what we choose to do fosters growth, creates wins, and paves the way for continued success.
What necessary endings need to take place in your business, so you can be positioned for continued success in the future? Are you courageous enough to train and empower your team to act on that premise?
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