Sometimes, new is the only way through
If you are reading this post anywhere near its publication date, you’re reading it on a new website that is the result of many professionals’ hours of toil. Over the past months, I’ve taken the time to think through a new brand, a more articulated approach to WGP’s work, and a clearer expression of my vision for Wilson Growth Partners.
These are all signs of renewal. Specifically, they are, I hope, the outcome of and a significant hat tip toward the clients who partner with WGP. And all of this has me thinking: There is a time for and a need for renewal of everything.
With apologies to the Byrds, King Solomon said it best when he said there is a time for everything. I thought it worth a few reflections on Ecclesiastes as this journey of client service I’m on has developed; I do this in the spirit of acknowledging that the trappings of the business I have—especially this blog and website—represent in and of themselves a renewal and redirection on my own journey, but not the depth of it.
I’m just going to pick a few of Solomon’s thoughts (from Ecclesiastes 3 for those looking for the richness of the actual text and not my meager writing here) and reflect for a minute on each. Maybe you will gain from them as I have over the years.
For sure, the art of renewal is not knowing exactly when it needs to happen but knowing that it needs to happen in the first place. Without that knowledge, we all get bogged down by ourselves or by others.
…A time to plant and a time to uproot
I’ve been in a few organizations over the years. During that time, I’ve counseled dozens of managers who, despite their own rationalizations, knew that it was time to uproot. They endowed their current circumstances and (perceived in almost every case) stability with mystical powers over their own well-being. I have also, I confess, remained in a role for at least a year longer than it took to gain clarity that uprooting was due. So I understand the inertia of endowment. Maybe this is you?
On the other side, I’ve witnessed aimless professionals floating through a litany of roles and companies, trying to find “it” while never allowing roots to form. They fall into a trap of seeking meaning, but they move too quickly—they want it all, and now, and they allow those wants to create an aimlessness that is as sad as the rootedness of those who stay too long. Remember, inertia also means it’s hard to stop moving. Maybe this is you?
…A time to tear down and a time to build
Tearing down old edifices is hard. An edifice in your life might be as simple as the way things have always been done, or it may be an entire institution that simply isn’t working (and, yes, I mean companies, but also relationships, contracts, and any other untenable situations). Renewal depends on the ability to tear down; it requires strength, but also the ability to look at old things in new ways. Leaving a job or a company or a leader, perhaps particularly when you feel sorry for them because you know your departure will hurt their effectiveness, is still a form of tearing down.
More to the point, tearing down old processes and ways of working can be hard. For some, finding efficiency in an organization for those within it can be extremely difficult. But for others, it’s quite easy, and they can tear down old institutions with ease.
The challenge, however, is finding renewal through building; building is also hard. For those who specialize in tearing down, cutting costs, restructuring organizations and the like, building is the hardest thing, and they lose the knack. Finding the time and place to build in our own individual lives can be equally hard.
…A time to keep and a time to throw away
Clutter gets us all. It can be the physical clutter of paper, documents, or other things, or it can be the mental clutter of divided loyalties, missions, loves, and joys—both can be toxic. Finding renewal through deciding what to keep and what to throw away may very well be one of the simplest and best ways of starting.
For a professional services firm like mine, the keep/throw away dichotomy can be defined through the clients we choose to continue working with vs. those we choose not to, and it can also be the topics we choose to do more of vs. those we choose to defer.
In operational excellence initiatives, a massively valuable starting point tends to be the 5Ss. That is, the first visible and engaging step in finding operational improvement is to Sort, Straighten, Sanitize, Standardize, and Sustain: decide what to keep and to throw away. Oh, and do it visibly, so that others get it—if it’s good for the shop floor, it’s good for the rest of us.
In other words, what am I keeping today and what am I throwing away are great starting points for renewal.
…A time to be silent and a time to speak
Many of my posts, now that I look at them, can be categorized as arising out of an ethic—a strategic outlook—that revolves around self-respect. This final piece of guidance on renewal that I’ll pull from Solomon is another of those: We all need to know when it’s time to be silent and when it’s time to speak up. We all need to be clear on when enough is enough when it comes to behaviors we can no longer tolerate or ethics that have gone off the rails.
Related to the above, renewal depends on breaking the silence. The silence may be internal to your own heart or it may be very external, but the first step of the immortal 12-step process is speaking up: You must “Admit it.”
All of which is to say, if we are seeking renewal, we have to admit it; at the least we have to admit it to ourselves, but we might have to admit it to others also: Solomon was right.
Renewal…True renewal, in a professional, personal, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual sense, is two-sided, and Solomon laid this out so eloquently so long ago. You and I can find renewal through moving, changing, uprooting, and, yes, being born again. We can also find renewal through stopping, reflecting, growing roots, and, yes, dying a little bit here and there.
This professional journey—the one we’re on for only part of our lives—is highly responsive to how we renew it; a promising career can wilt from too much movement, and it most certainly can wilt from being planted in the wrong ground.
Sometimes, new is the only way through.
So, go and reflect on renewal now. Oh, and enjoy the new website and blog. Please leave a comment if you care to.