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How to Hold ’em And Fold ’em

How to Hold ’em And Fold ’em

You can conduct your career transition to either spoil or strengthen your team, your organization and, most of all, your good name.

There are two succession transition mistakes a few leaders make at the end of their career – being too aggressive or too passive. Both are about the need for control.  

Aggressively – Holdin’ on too long

There is a story in the Bible’s Old Testament about a king named Saul and his successor apparent named David. King Saul was very old, and it would have been wise for him to begin to prepare David to be the leader of his kingdom, but instead of letting go, mentoring, encouraging, and allowing his successor to experience and learn king-type leadership lessons, Saul gripped his reins of power even tighter. He became angry and lashed out, which is typically an initial reaction to fear of loss, but he never stopped trying to destroy David. People near him offered wise counsel, but instead of listening to others’ advice, he became more paranoid with fits of rage until, ultimately, he died leaving a legacy of disgrace. Because of Saul ego-driven, fear-driven reactions to letting go, David’s transition to king was fraught with struggles, and the kingdom came close to being destroyed. But because of David’s unshakable faith, character, and patience, he was anointed king and had a great deal of success. (To learn more, see 1 Samuel 9-31.)

Passively – Foldin’ up too soon

I don’t have a Biblical story to illustrate this, but I worked for several years leading projects in a factory in the New Mexico. It seems every time we asked about when a task or project would get done, the answer would be “mañana.” You know mañana behavior in the retirement age manager who is no longer effective and has been hanging around too long. He or she has “retired in place.” They quit but just forget to leave. Their indecision is often more destructive than aggressive behavior, with team members feeling held hostage by a range of unstable of emotions. The mañana manager’s answer to when he or she will retire has been, for the past 10 years,  “in three to five years” or “when the stock market gets better” or “I don’t know. What would I do if I retired? ” You want to say, “You’re not doing anything productive here so why don’t you go home and not do anything productive there.” The negative impact of this selfish when-the-time-get-right behavior lasts for decades in an organization.   

Note: I’ve said all of this as if the soon-to-retire person has enough savings to live comfortably in retirement, because if that is not the case, then we all must do what we must do to get by.  

Balance of Structure and Purpose

All humans are purpose-driven and structure-seeking beings. The real reason behind passive and aggressive behavior during career or life change is a void of purpose and/or structure. The only healthy solution I have found in 25 years of coaching is having a purposeful, structured plan for your transition through the immediate unknown into your imagined next new beginning.  

Journal Entry:  Are you near or at retirement age, major life shift  or career change and allowing  your need for control to erode your good name? If so, you have a choice. You can keep going down your passive or aggressive path and suffer the sad consequences, or you can talk with someone who can help you create a plan for the next phase in your leadership and life.

Leadership and Life Journal: A new way to look at the important things you already know. Subscribe to Leadership & Life Journal. 


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