Over the past few weeks, several of my BLP (Basic Leadership Practicum) students have been finishing their time with us. Some will continue to be staff with YWAM here in Burtigny; others are moving to a new country.
When an end date is approaching, or you’ve decided to finish what you are doing and move on to something new, you move into a transition phase. A place of limbo where the current isn’t yet finished and the new hasn’t yet started. But things shift. So there are some things to consider to help you finish well.
How do you communicate the ending of a job/commitment…?
You may have already been processing with yourself, God and hopefully some trusted mentors. But when you’ve finished the decision process, comes the time to communicate to the wider group your plans. You need to consider several things about HOW you share your news.
- It might be scary for you to share this news and it’s then the decision feels final; it changes from being theoretical to becoming an actual reality. It’s ok to feel nervous as you make this step. Acknowledge what you feel, share it with God and your trusted confidants. Pray for the courage to take the step of faith.
- You are making a statement of faith – this is what you’re going to do next, and you might not be sure of how it will go. That’s normal and totally fine.
- If you have been bursting with excitement and can’t wait for this current time to end because you are so ready to start the new thing. Great. But spare a thought for those whose lives will also change as a result of your change. My friend Lynn knew I wanted to go back into missions again for a long time. But when the time came for it to actually start happening, part of her heart didn’t want me to go; she would miss me and valued our friendship time together. She also had to process how my change was affecting her life.
- Be prepared for a variety of responses to your news. Some will be happy for you, others shocked, others may be judgemental because you are stepping out of the box they were content to keep you in. Others may think it’s because of something that’s happened; thus, cautious as to why you’re stopping/changing. And a whole host of other reasons. (Remember that’s them, not you).
- So consider who you need to give more details to, HOW you share your news announcement. Are there people who it would be good to tell first? (e.g. those who are directly affected or are in some way a leader over you?) Thus people can receive the news in the way you hope they will respond well to it/you. Then give them time to process. Some may have a million instant questions; others will process and come to you later. Or perhaps you need to go to a few to ask them how they are doing with the news.
- Remember that this affects them also; you are bringing change on them, which they might not be ready for or want.
- The good news is that God loves them too and will be with them to help them through this change process. Some love the opportunities change brings; others need to be almost dragged through it until they find a new comfortable place. So grace and patience are necessary for those whom change is difficult.
Recognising the tension between the two seasons
Suddenly time speeds up and slows down at the same time. You are in a limbo of waiting for the next part to start. But if you want to finish well, then many things need to be sorted out and processed. Depending on how long you have been where you currently are, and the start of the next can be massive. For those with many responsibilities, 3 months minimum is needed. No matter our personality, time can be a friend and a frustrater in this in-between season.
Therefore recognise there is tension. There will be stress, and there will be things to do that you might not realise yet.
Don’t run away from the tension and stress (it’s natural and normal). Instead, ask God to help you with it, and embrace it as a friend to help you keep moving/working on all the things that need to be done. But also, don’t let it take over.
To help limit stress—make a list of all the things that need to be done. Yes, I know for some of you, having a huge long list will seem the opposite of reducing your stress. But it means you don’t have to hold all the details in your head. Or be continually surprised by new things appearing you didn’t think of earlier that now need to be done. Even the most list-hating people I know recognise their limitations and the help a list can be in these times.
Remember, the goal is to finish well, so you need to embrace the process and put in the work. It will show you how strong your character is and where you need help to develop yourself further.
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me …. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a few of things…” (v12, 14+15)
Paul gives much enthusiastic wisdom in the whole of chapter 3 about how we are In Christ but still waiting to be with Christ. This exhortation to do all we can while in the waiting is perfect for this transition phase.
Preparation for the new that’s coming.
Depending on what you’re moving on to, very little prep is needed. Or quite literally packing up your house and moving continents. But the same principles apply.
Ask those you are joining what you need to do in preparation for coming? Research to read, documents to fill out and submit. Decluttering to pack to move, new accommodation to find, language to start learning…
Make a separate list for the new. Set aside specific times to work on these things. So they don’t take over what you need to finish and don’t pile up to hinder you when you move on into the new season.
What questions do you need to ask, so you don’t make the wrong assumptions and can prepare as well as you can in the time and capacity you have available. This will also give respect and confidence to your new leaders that you are mature, forward-thinking and trustworthy. (Like getting brownie points before starting).
Taking time to finish the things you’ve been responsible for
You currently have things you are responsible for. Others may know everything you’ve been doing; others will have no clue. Think about what projects and pieces you need to finish and by when. What ongoing bigger things need to be handed over to someone else? What needs to be written down, sent to someone else? Many of us have files or emails on our computers that need to be shared with others so that important information doesn’t get lost or deleted when you leave.
Are there any future commitments that you now won’t be able to do, so need to be cancelled, or someone else found to take your place?
For the person taking over your responsibilities, how much time do they need to learn what you did? Does a person need to be found first, and if it’s doubtful whether they can arrive in time, do you need to make a written record of all the information you need to share with that person? Try not to see it as a tedious effort, but how much they will appreciate your heart to help them have a great start. Even if you never meet them, they will be thankful for the time and effort you put in for them (as will your old boss). Just think, if you were in their shoes, what would you have loved to know?
Who do you need to make time to talk with?
It’s crucial for things that need to be shared face-to-face to be given the time to have. So we don’t end up doing it over a text message. It’s valuable to think about those conversations you’ve been meaning to have or share those words of encouragement. Or is there anyone you need to ask for forgiveness from? It’s better to not leave things unspoken or wish you’d said.
I don’t include this to be morbid or anything. But if this was your last time to talk to someone you’ve enjoyed working with or who has been a blessing in your life—then let them know. This is an excellent opportunity to be an encouragement and blessing to others. If you needed a reason – leaving is a great one.
Reflection and debriefing of the past season
At the natural change of a season is an excellent time to reflect on what your time in your role… as taught you. I would highly recommend taking some time with God to reflect on what you’ve gone through in this season personally and with God.
Many HR departments have an exit interview where you get to share things officially; what they as a company/organisation can learn/ adapt for the future. Plus any reasons why you are leaving (which they could rectify, so others don’t leave for the same reasons too). And if they are a quality organisation, they may give you some feedback and evaluation of what they value in the work you have done with them.
I would also implore you to ask someone with experience/wisdom to help you debrief your time. To look back at how/ what it was like when you first started there. What you’ve learned about yourself and others, skills you’ve developed, and how you’ve changed in this season. What are your highlights and disappointments? Consider what you are taking into your next season to help you? Finally, what you are thankful for, what you would do differently in light of what you now know…?
Taking time to debrief a season or situation is the 100% best way to finish well for yourself. So you can identify the things you need to work on, let go of the things that you can’t change, and take the good things that will help you in your future. This will make you a stronger, healthier and happier person.
Recognising the deaths that need to happen
When you change something, it’s no longer what it was. The thing that was is now effectively dead. So when you stop doing something or move locations… you need to acknowledge that the past way of doing something is dying away. So a grieving process needs to take place. Sometimes all you need to do is recognise what is changing, what you will no longer be able to do. Thank it for the season in your life and say goodbye to it. Giving even the most minor thing a moment of consideration will help you mentally and emotionally move on. I know this will have more meaning for some of you than others. But savouring that last coffee from the coffee shop you go to regularly and thanking them for their service will help you let go and move on to the next season. Or taking one last look in the office you’ve spent a considerable amount of time and effort in and saying goodbye will help you bring closure.
Once you’ve left, you can’t as easily go back and do it. It will complete even some subconscious part of you and help you, piece by piece, move on to the new. Having inner space ready to receive the new.
Find a balance.
If you have longer than a month to transition. Then you aren’t in a sprint. So you need to find time to do the work you need to do to finish well and prepare for what’s coming. And also to have fun and rest too. Otherwise, you’ll show up for your 1st day at your new work and wish it was a holiday instead.
So take days off, go do fun things with friends. If you’re leaving the area, visit your favourite places and savour their sights, smells and tastes. Make intentional memories to take with you. Sleep, rest and be kind to your body. All change takes energy – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. So give your body the time it needs to be refreshed to carry you through all this change well.
Finish strong – your last impression is as important as your first.
This is the after-taste you will leave with people. Will it be sweet and open to receive again? Or bitter and actually damage your relationship, thus hampering any future prospects with them? How you finish will either keep doors open to work with them again or close the door to future partnership. Plus, it will be the lingering reputation you leave about your character and you.
Ask yourself, what / how would you like to be remembered? What you write down in response is what effort you need to put in to make this a reality.
If we want to be like Jesus, then we need to develop our character qualities to be Christlike. Going through busy, stressful times is when we see how strong our character is. Finishing well when part of us is so ready to move on to the next new and exciting season is one of the biggest tests of our character. I’ve seen people hand in their resignations and then sit back doing less and less work each day as they wait for the time to pass. It’s hard to be in a team with someone who’s mentally already left the building.
Therefore, I encourage you to consider each of these points to help you finish well whatever it is in your life that you’re leaving behind. This will be a testimony of being who you say you are without using words to communicate.
A few other blogs I’ve done could be of help as you consider this topic. For example, #2 Transition #26 How do we apply things we want to change in our lives? #21 Trusting God with opportunities #15 What does it mean to take responsibility? #13 What stops me from becoming the leader I want to be? #5 Transformation through the drip, drip effect
[For those who don’t know what BLP or YWAM are, BLP = Basic Leadership Practicum, a 2-year, part-time program for our new younger staff here in YWAM. YWAM = Youth With A Mission is an international, interdenominational Christian missions organisation. I work with JEM Burtigny as we’re in the Swiss-French speaking region].