We All Have a Shelf Life: Don’t Get Stale

It’s hard to say goodbye.

As we enter 2019, many of us will experience feelings of hope and uncertainty as we look forward while reflecting back, reevaluating new beginnings.

While “new” is exciting, letting go of the “old” is sad.

Think about the experience of a college graduation or buying a new home, both usher in mixed feelings of happiness and excitement, mourning and reflection.  

The workplace and our jobs are no different. The new year presents us with an opportunity to assess our careers and the next steps we want to take. Sometimes we stay in a job or with a company longer than we should because it’s worked out so well for so long.

Oftentimes, we see this with leaders who built an organization to new heights or brought the needed change at the right time. As time goes by, however, other changes are needed and leaders should consider their succession management plan to ensure successful growth and change. 

Leaders don’t always realize when their unique brand of leadership or expertise is no longer the right fit.

Most prominently, we see this play out in front of a national audience with sports figures and political leaders. So often, star athletes well past their prime become local legends and hometown heroes. Congressmen and women, who represent not only their home state but an entire political party, stop being representative of the new generation of voters and leaders. 

I’m a big NY Giants fan, and if you follow football at all, you know that the Giants have been abysmal over the last several years. And, for much of his career, the Giant’s quarterback, Eli Manning, has been on the hot seat. I recently read an article that equated benching Eli Manning to taking away your grandparent’s driver’s license. Manning, who is 37 years old, is well past the average 6-year football career, according to the NFL, yet the idea of sitting him out was still appalling to much of his fan base, myself included.

“Wishful thinking and bittersweet memories get in the way of sound judgment,” the piece opens up with. While no longer the superstar he once was, Manning led the Giants to two Super Bowl wins and holds countless records. Compare these wins to those of any professional industry or career, it means that as an employee Manning gave his all and exceeded expectations. How do you “punish” someone who has achieved so much?

Realizing that a role is no longer the right role for someone, regardless of how perfect it used to be, is not punishment.

It’s an emotional decision, however, one that those surrounding and supporting any leader must prepare for. After a 5-11 season, we wait to see what Manning’s fate will be in the next season. Whether or not benching him is the right call, the talent issue here is that no one is prepared for this inevitable turn of events in the organization. 

Politically we’re seeing a “new guard” of democrats question whether Nancy Pelosi is still the right woman to lead her team in Congress. As the most demographically diverse democratic Congress convenes, shouldn’t there be someone representative of this new chapter? And, even though there was an outcry for a new face to lead the Democratic party, there was no one remotely qualified to step up. Yes, Pelosi’s experience is important, but equally important is a set of fresh eyes. As leaders, it is imperative we cultivate and mentor upcoming leaders so that there can be several qualified people to take over when something new is needed. 

Too often we find ourselves in this position of “what do we do now that we’re here?” As leaders, we will all outgrow a position, regardless of industry or expertise. It’s critical to be able to recognize this in ourselves and our colleagues and to have a plan in place for a smooth transition. If the leader is a founder or figurehead, a new leadership role can be created or melded to fit that place on the team. This does not mean change is all for show. Rather, give the new role a clear purpose and reason for existing. When we accept that something needs to be done, we can take the steps necessary to help someone move on in the best way for them and our team.

The Silverene Group is proud to be a 100% minority, woman owned business.