Don’t Leave Before You Leave

Yesterday, I had a few meetings to reconnect with people who inspire me and who I had worked with in previous contracts or employment.  We discussed a number of challenges, but the one common thread that continued to unravel throughout the day through different facets and perspectives was this: don’t leave before you leave.

You’re not retired until you retire.

One manager shared her frustration with people who were near retirement and didn’t want to learn new technology.  She shared that she was in a room of employees when one person argued that he was two years from retirement and shouldn’t have to learn to use new technology.  Her brilliant comment, “You’re not going to be retired at work and collect a paycheck.”  The younger employees clapped.  She pointed out that we need valuable, growing employees at every stage of their lives of employment and if you believe that you don’t need to learn new things when you are near retirement, you may be limiting your own talents.  We all know that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks – if they want to learn them.  And you’re only as OLD as you feel, right?

Legacy Plans work

Another manager I met later in the day talked about retirement-age employees who established legacy plans and devoted their last years of employment to completing one big project.  Some of them spent over 50 years working in this organization!  Over 50!This project has lasted for years – and the employees refuse to retire until it is live.  The manager said, “They will be here until the project is successful no matter what.”

I laughed because the work I did with these employees was to introduce and encourage legacy planning.  I never considered the challenges that might arise from true legacy dedication, but the engagement of this project team and these employees is top notch.  The manager was more concerned about this project “stealing” from their earned retirement!

Then, there are those in between

I have coached the “in-betweeners.”  I have been an “in-betweener,” and my final meeting of the day was about the “in-betweeners.”  These are the people who are miserable at work.  They go to work every day with dread or blah yet for reasons they hold dear to their hearts, they cannot give up.  They cannot leave.

Many of them are like the legacy builders and just want to see the end result of their work.  Sometimes they have fear that the work will fall apart without them.  Sometimes they have fear of failure.  Sometimes they just don’t want to give up.  Regardless, they leave before they leave.  They are shells of themselves, not focused on anything important and certainly not working toward their true potential.  And yet, they won’t throw in the towel and say goodbye.  Often, they won’t even explore other employment or job roles.  They will just “be.”

Life’s too short to just “be.”  Life’s too exciting to be just “blah.”

When it’s right to stay

It’s always confirming to hear reports of engagement.  What really gets employees to be a part of life at work?  Touching base with other leaders throughout the day and hearing their conviction to engaged employees confirmed for me once again that people will be more engaged and motivated when they feel competent in their skills, confident in their roles, connected to their teams and the organization, and are convicted to the purpose of their team’s work – and, in many cases, their own legacy.

One manager talked about an employee who was ” blah” and became “WOW!” through hard conversations and openness to feedback.  She needed the right work, the right support, and the right purpose.  Once that was established, the employee and manager  soared.

Another manager shared his own challenges with being engaged as a leader – that he was challenged with his own conviction and had to take time to realize that his challenges were not related to the engagement of the teams, but rather his own dedication and alignment to the vision of the work.  He established his own game plan to address misalignment to the vision and reengage himself in true leadership.

As I walked from building to building during the day meeting with one leader after another, each manager pointed out the “people impact” my work had achieved in the short time I was there.  I was inspired not because of the work I left behind, but by what they carried on and applied to other projects when I wasn’t with them, and how they put their leadership egos aside to truly become the leaders that made their teams flourish with record productivity and engagement.

They were working every day with purpose:  to create an environment where employees believed it’s right to stay and do their best whether they are retirement age or in-betweeners.

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