Last Thursday the Global Connections Council met for its twice yearly meeting to think and pray about the future. As I retire from GC in June, it was my last time with them. I had the privilege of sharing some thoughts about the last 13 years and my time here. My successor Anna Bishop was there and it was great to think through together some of the many challenges that she will face over the coming months and years.
This was closely followed on Saturday when I had the incredible privilege of attending a reunion of people that used to work for me in Thailand and Cambodia in the 80s and 90s. 50 people turned up and though I hadn’t seen many of them for years, picking up relationships felt like it was yesterday. It was rather an emotional roller coaster and brought back memories of a previous transition for me 13 years ago when I left CORD and that world behind and joined Global Connections.
So it all set me thinking again about transition. I have had a lot of people say to me – why are you going? George Bernard Shaw said: “Progress is impossible without change” and I felt strongly it was time for change at GC. Many of the things we will need to develop as a network in the future will probably not be within my skills base or energy levels. In addition I didn’t want to hang around for too long and wanted to go before others wanted to get rid of me!!
Transition times though are never easy. Though I have my experience from CORD to learn from, I am especially grateful for a fantastic discussion that I had with a group of International Directors in 2015. Several were also either moving on or thinking about it, and together we combined our wisdom to develop a helpful list of ideas to help someone leaving in the transition process.
For me the key one is that realising handing over leadership can sometimes feel like handing over your identity. However in the end, loving Jesus is more important than any ministry. My heartbeat has always been “He must increase; I must decrease” John 3:30, a verse that has real poignancy for me. Perhaps in a time of transition, that even more needs to be the heartbeat of a leader if he or she wants to end well.
THE GLOBAL CONNECTIONS GUIDE TO FINISHING WELL
As suggested by a group of International Mission CEOs in December 2015
MAKING THE RIGHT THE DECISION
- Make the decision to leave before you stay too long. Go before others want you to go.
- Communicate the decision well. Do not let it slip out by osmosis to people who should be told.
PLANNING FOR CHANGE
- Pause, pray and exercise godly judgement on your ‘bucket list’ for your remaining time in the role: what to forge ahead with and what to let go.
- Do not leave unresolved HR issues to your successor.
- Set up a process for organisational transition. This is not likely to happen unless the outgoing CEO pushes it. Consider a ‘transition coach’ for the benefit of the organisation and of you. Include team Biblical reflection on transition, led by someone other than you.
- Give yourself, your successor and the remaining team the clear message that you expect and require that things will change after you leave. Otherwise, why leave? Explicitly release your successor from being bound by the way you have done things. Don’t tie up your successor with your late decisions.
- The transition process is God’s opportunity to give you a learning experience as your focus on your years in the role. Make sure you set aside the time to do that.
- The pressures of the job will make it difficult to think about what you will do after it. But start to put that question before the Lord around six months before your finishing date.
- Talk to your Board about some time before, or after, your finishing date, to prepare for what is next.
ENSURING A GOOD FUTURE
- Honour your successor. Enable him or her to thrive as God’s choice. Continue to do so after you leave. This applies regardless of your personal opinion on the suitability of your successor.
- Looking beyond your finishing date, focus on building the things that are valuable for you that are not dependent on the job, so the loss of the job role doesn’t strip everything away.
- Invite the Lord to release you from feelings of bitterness, failure and pain that can come at the point of closure, and for healing from the sense of grief and loss.
- If you have a spouse, consider his/her needs: the impacts on the spouse will be quite different.
- Prayerfully reflect on how, if at all, to continue to engage in the organisation.
- Stepping down doesn’t mean dissociating from all your current networks. Some of those will still value your contribution as an individual, so long as that does not undermine your successor.
- For people in big roles, and especially for founders, handing over leadership can feel like handing over your identity. In the end, loving Jesus is more important than any ministry. If you have always been in charge, consider deliberately taking on a more humble, serving role.