Letting Go Is A Process

Funerals are always times I reflect on life, particularly the time that has flown by. Eulogies are told and memories of days-gone-by with lifelong family and friends run through my mind. It’s a time when I realize the inescapable finiteness of my human existence. I’m in one of those “seasons of funerals” that tend to come, more often, as I grow older. Besides the corpus in the casket, many of the mourners are aging and/or terminally ill or have someone dear to them in those situations. The reality of mortality weighs heavy in the church. I believe it’s how God prepares us for our own ending—through the experience of the death of others.

Those are moments when everyone in the room deals with the question: “Do I really believe what I say I believe—that I will be swept into the arms of the Lord when I, too, face that threshold?” It’s difficult to let go of who we know and love even though we believe in the eternal presence of God. The pastor’s role as spiritual leader is to remind us of that truth.

If you pause to think, our lives are filled with moments of dying and grieving, and those experiences train our spirit to accept death and move through it to resurrection. It’s the letting go of the familiar--what we know and love—what we can see and touch—with the assurance of a better outcome.

So, it is with our businesses. What we know and love can be projects, employees, processes, assets, or clients that we well know are beyond their useful life. Yet we protest, we cling to memories of vitality, and refuse to let things go.

In his excellent book, “Necessary Endings,” Dr. Henry Cloud explains that endings are necessary for growth—some things die and some must be “killed.” He distinguishes between real and false hope; false hope is when more effort will not bring about different results.

As a Christian business owner, you are the spiritual leader and steward of the company whose role is to navigate through these decisions of life and death to ensure the legacy of the organization.

At Convene, we help by bringing perspective, wise counsel, and encouragement around those decisions—the decisions that can be so hard to let go, even though we know there’s a better place on the other side.

Lessons From My Father

Some days, my dad and I had a rocky relationship. I remember a conversation he and I had while he was at the top of the stairs in my new home. I was 26, married, had a Biola degree and a good job, and was convinced I was a pretty wise young man. We’d just had a major disagreement about how I was not happy with his involvement in writing about whether or not UFOs existed.

Family Firms and Independent Boards

There is something about those of us who prefer freedom to security, and who build businesses with freedom to enjoy our work as a foundation stone. We don’t want folks looking over our shoulders, and we often translate that to mean we don’t want boards, and we certainly don’t want independent board members. It’s not uncommon to hear privately held company owners and CEOs talk about the painful experiences of trying to put advisory or governing boards together or to realize the benefit. What is uncommon is for those same owners and CEOs to recognize the problem may just have been centered in their inadequate recruitment, preparation and participation.

A highlight of this year’s CEO Summit at Convene, was a presentation by David C. Bentall, who shared the painful story of a substantial, family-owned business empire torn apart by the very people who grew it, blind to their own deficits until it was too late. Bentall has now devoted himself to helping other family-owned businesses manage their succession with greater aplomb. His book, Leaving a Legacy: Navigating Family Business SUCCESSion, is an excellent guiding resource, especially for family businesses moving into a second generation of leadership and beyond.

A centerpiece to it working well, according to Bentall, is a compensated, governing, well-prepared and independent board. This is very different than recruiting cronies and family members exclusively.  And…when such a board is in place, regular and high-priority meetings among family members, and their spouses, are also a must.

Pushing for this often brings the rolling of eyes and verbal protests. And yet, the burden of proof rests on the protestor. In lieu of following these best practices, how are they living as a steward of the company they are building? How can they claim to be so wise when they keep foregoing the laying of the long-term foundation to guide a company beyond their leadership?

Heat up or chill out

A recent conversation with a colleague ended with the comparison of these two commonly used phrases, and an “Aha!” type of insight.
HEAT UP – What we want to happen when we are enacting strategy.
CHILL OUT – What we want to happen when we are figuring out mission, vision, values and goals that lead to those strategies.
It is not a good idea to get them confused!
Heating up adds fuel, combusts, gives warmth, attracts a crowd.
Chilling out — condenses, reduces, solidifies, and slows.
Another way to understand this is to consider fog. Fog isn’t warm enough to evaporate and it isn’t cold enough to solidify. It is in between. When we face a tough and confusing issue in business, we may feel foggy. What to do?
We do well to chill out first, and then begin to heat up.
If we start acting before we’ve reduced a critical issue to its essence, people end app working frantically, and not from a common understanding. In such a case, heat leads to destructive forms of conflict, regrettable actions and/or reduced profit margins.
Chilling out is a way to get to the:
  • WHY are we working at this?
  • WHO will work at this, WHO supervises them, WHO needs to be consulted, WHO holds decision power over this, and WHO is funding this?
  • What is the criteria for our success?
  • WHEN must the work be completed?
  • WHERE will the work be done?
  • HOW will we proceed from here and in what order of steps?
Chilling out in this way helps all the key players collect the fuel needed to heat up and to do it together, from a common point of reference. Heating up happens far more efficiently that way.
Yes, it probably feels silly to ask, “Should we chill out or heat up?” when faced with a big one. But before completely rejecting this idea, you might ask yourself what question you are asking (or not asking) in its place.