All Good Things
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘all good things come to an end’. We normally apply it to such things as winning streaks for our favourite sports teams or the end of a long running and acclaimed Tv series. In our own lives we may say it at the end of a good holiday perhaps. But do we ever consider it in terms of our working lives?
Within business it really could be applied in many ways; such as the natural decline of a high selling product line that becomes unfashionable or overtaken by technology. It can be applied to companies themselves, many of whom decline and disappear even though at one time we thought they would be stalwarts and a constant part of our lives.
In our own careers, it can be roles that we really enjoy that gradually disappear as technology or need overtakes them. Sometimes the company gets bought by an owner who sees things differently and decides that the role we had is not relevant for their business model. And of course, sometimes they all combine as a product declines, so too does a business and then as it goes, so does our role.
These situations feel very different to the holiday scenario, where we smile as we say ‘ all good things cone to an end’. Perhaps it is because the holiday was always designed to be a short term activity and our job, the company, the product wasn’t, but it’s harder to smile and say ‘all good things..’ when it comes to our workplace. Perhaps it’s because the holiday is a matter of personal choice ( two weeks, three weeks, home or overseas etc, these choices are all ours to make) and the end of a product or company isn’t, but people have difficulty facing the end of such things in their working lives.
I’m not talking about sudden announcements of redundancies ( which I talk about in my ‘Leading through transition’ seminars’) which we all know create anxiety for people. I’m talking about the gradual ‘writing is on the wall’ situations, where we hang on to a product, a division or a role well in to their decline, almost hoping that fortunes will be reversed and the good times will come again.
How often have you seen a company hold on to a product even though it is losing money and there is every sign that it has been overtaken in the marketplace by improved technology, a better idea or changing fashions? How about a business model that served us well for many years but is now outdated, ineffective or costly (door to door sales? bookstores anyone?), but is held on to for what seems to just be the warm recollection of the good old days? And in situations where the company is sold and it us very obvious that the new owner sees things differently how many times do you see people hanging on to their role even though everything is changing around them or it is obvious that they are no longer appreciated by the new boss? Waiting for the boss to see the light? Or perhaps to be ‘paid to leave’?
I had a conversation with a top quality GM recently and during it we agreed that it takes guts to leave a job that you really have no need to leave, but you can see that your time in that role should be over; that ’all good things come to an end’. It’s the same being the one to say ‘this strategy has only a year left in it’ or ‘this product will only last us another sales cycle’ or ‘ this model is doing fine but we actually need to prepare for it’s end’ and doing so while things are relatively ok. My GM colleague said to me ‘it takes guts to get out at the top, but everyone respects you more in the long run’ and I think he is right.
Recognising that ‘all good things come to an end’ doesn’t mean you panic at the first sign of change, or when one or two things don’t go your way. It doesn’t mean you jump as soon as the new boss arrives or when your company goes up for sale. It doesn’t mean that with the right effort a product couldn’t be turned round or a divisions fortunes improved.
It does mean taking stock of everything and being able to recognise the reality of an environment, the trends and the symptoms and then deciding whether the path you are on is going to work for you/the brand/the division (delete as required).
For all of us there will be times when ‘all good things are coming to an end’, the trick us can you see them in time.