Have you ever had to end a relationship? Not the bad boyfriend kind, I’m talking about a professional one.
Maybe, you found a new job and it was time to leave the old one? Maybe you had been coaching with someone and felt complete with what you’ve learned and felt it was time to end the sessions? Maybe you’d been coaching someone and knew it was time for them to find support elsewhere? Or perhaps you had been involved in leadership of an organization and it was your turn to rotate off, step down or you determined it was time to step aside?
I can say yes to each of these, what about you?
Over the years, I’ve handled some “breakups” better than others; wisdom and maturity have sure helped how I now plan these exits.
After 5 years as Executive Managing Director for eWomenNetwork Greater Seattle and having received the distinction as the first and only two time consecutive Managing Director of the Year I made the decision this past fall to step down. It came with a lot of thought (candidly a year’s worth) about what was best for the community and for me professionally; and perhaps the thing I considered the most was how to handle the transition in a way that felt good to all stakeholders; the members, my community, the corporation and myself.
The day the baton was passed to the new leader, Sandra Yancey, eWomenNetwork CEO was present at the event and in her speech to the audience, acknowledging my leadership and service and welcoming the new Managing Director she said something that continues to roll through my mind, “How you end relationships is possibly more important than how you start them…..”
As the weeks have passed since my “retirement” I have thought and journaled a lot about that statement. If you think of ending business relationships as though they are closing acts of wonderful Broadway performances doesn’t it make sense that you want your colleagues, clients, coaches and stakeholders to be “whistling” your tune as the relationship ends? You know what I’m talking about….a great Broadway performance ends with the BEST tune…..it’s the one you are whistling or humming on your way out of the theatre. It's the one that stays with you.
It is possible to do the same in business. Here are 4 things I’ve learned in creating memorable break ups that leave everyone impacted feeling good about the transition.
If you know there is a designated end date, create a calendar 60 days out of what needs to be done and back into the transition.
If you are in a position of leadership, speak to the corporate leaders regarding your intention and your plan to exit. If you are having this conversation with a client who is ready to transition off, let them know at least 30 days in advance and create next steps and possible introductions for them as they move to the next platform. If you are a client who is ready to end a relationship with a coach or consultant, let them know at least 30 days out. This will allow them to clarify the final steps you need to make and provides them time to fill the place on their roster that will be vacated at your departure.
Yep, even in the best endings that create new beginnings there will be people who want to know the “real” reason the business relationship ended. Candidly – it’s never as exciting as they want it to be. Remember, everything you say is more of a reflection on you than it is on the other party or organization involved. If you wouldn’t say it in front of the other person or organization, it’s likely best to not say anything at all.
It could be easy to just “cut off” all contact when a business relationship ends. You’re either not getting paid any longer from the organization or the client. I’m here to tell you THIS is the key to where I started this post, how the relationship ends tells more about those involved than how it began. Even if there are some “awkward feelings” it is ALWAYS better to continue to be the trusted resource or advocate for those you are breaking up with than not……the silence feeds the drama mamas. I also believe in the Universal Law of helping enough other people without an agenda will come back to you and your bank account multiple times over!
I’d love to hear your happy ending story. Come share it with me on Facebook!
Debbie Page Whitlock is a business coach and leading authority on cash flow for women entrepreneurs, and writes on all things related to creating sustainable, scalable and potentially salable businesses and other useful bits of business wisdom she’s acquired on her 20 year entrepreneurial odyssey.