“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em / Know when to fold ’em / Know when to walk away / And know when to run,” the sultry voice advises. Whatever the song’s object, the imagery is relevant to a seemingly scarce skill: Deciding when to end things.
Perhaps it is not that the skill is scarce, but that it is difficult; difficult not only to execute, but also to recognise as being necessary.
In business it could be knowing when to pull the plug on a project that everyone is still excited about but that is just not delivering. A sinking feeling on the way to work might be okay sometimes, but if that becomes the new normal, you have to ask yourself whether an ending is not imminent. If you are a partner in a business, how many ‘signs’ do you wait for before you walk away or by that time, has there been so much professional and financial damage that the choice is made for you?
In ‘Necessary Endings’ Dr Henry Cloud talks about “the employees, businesses and relationships that all of us have to give up in order to move forward”. He cites getting hopeless as a great change motivator. We would often rather make excuses and think of reasons why something should continue than accepting it is time to say goodbye (yeah, I know that song too).
Hope, by its nature, contains a time-buying quality. We hope things improve, we hope the season or difficulty passes, we hope the market will change in our favour. Unfortunately, the line between hoping and wishing is precariously thin. Our hope is as flimsy as pie crust if it is without justification (i.e. having hope that the project will deliver in the end because the key stakeholders have now pledged their support; hoping the partnership will flourish because tighter financial management and increased sales will show dividends by the next quarter).
Sometimes it is an exaggerated sense of responsibility that keeps us fighting long after the battle is over, with the only casualties being ourselves.
An associate had such a moment this week. She was offered a specific job. Her dilemma: she has the expertise but not the interest. Being self-employed, would it not be irresponsible to decline based on her ‘fancies’?
She decided to do a reality check. Has she done this type of work before? Yes. Did she enjoy doing it? No, it drained her. Did she have a sense of accomplishment afterwards? No, she was just glad it was over. How did feeling this way affect her other work? Negatively, she did not have enough energy to do what she loves. Would the financial compensation make up for doing a job she was not passionate about? No. Did she have any hope that taking the job this time would be different? Not in this lifetime.
She knew when to hold them, when to fold them, when to walk away, and – in this instance – when to run away. She told me afterwards that the liberty of being able to face reality and say no to something that would not help her move forward, encouraged her so much that it breathed new life into existing work and helped her land another job.
Have you become used to a feeling of discontent? Perhaps it is time for a reality check to identify those things that keep you from playing your heart out, and let it go (which, by the way, is also a song…)