It’s All About Timing
How ending things at the right time is important
But there is a time, a moment, when it is truly over, and if that is not in your view of life, you can miss the right time to get out and to turn your attention to something different or new.
~Necessary Endings, Henry Cloud
I came across Henry Cloud’s Necessary Endings at just the right moment in my life. I was into the second year of a pastoral appointment, and it was becoming increasingly clear that there was a staff member who wasn’t going to work out.
It was nothing personal with this particular person, but he was constantly ignoring directives that I was giving him, and the program that he was leading was starting to fall apart because of it. I know that’s vague, but it’s intentionally so because I don’t need to rehash the details for this particular post. The bottom line was that he would tell me that he was going to do those things, and months later, they were never even touched on. Consequently, there was no improvement.
I was really struggling with what to do because I was never in a position to let somebody go before. I didn’t want to do it. I knew it would not be received well by some people in the congregation. But if I didn’t at least come up with a plan for how to improve things, they weren’t going to get better.
I was talking over the situation with a friend one day, and he recommended Necessary Endings. By the time I finished the book a few days later, I had no doubt what I needed to do. Well, I didn’t really have any doubt in the first place, but now I had the courage.
Courage to do what is right even when it won’t be popular is an essential component in leadership. It’s not always easy to do the right thing. If it was, the world would be in a much better position than it is. And, sometimes, the right thing is to release somebody from their responsibilities in whatever organization you are leading. However, I didn’t want to just drop the guy without any kind of last chance.
I came up with a plan, in conjunction with key lay leaders, and called a meeting of our Staff-Parish committee — basically the church’s HR department. During this meeting, I presented this improvement plan and told the staff person that we would reevaluate things in 60 days. He did not like that.
In fact, he was so upset that he quit in the middle of the meeting, but didn’t leave. He just kept quitting his position. In all, he quit six times that night. It was pretty impressive. And VERY awkward (especially when he was taking some parting shots at one of the volunteers in the ministry, who had nothing to do with the whole situation, and whose husband was a part of the meeting). But it was the right thing to do.
We could have muddled along. We would have lost a couple people along the way if things continued the way they were going. The fallout from his leaving was difficult. It was one of the most difficult times I faced in my five years at that church. Other people took his side, and decided to gang up on me. In the end, they left as well — which was a great relief when the time finally came. But it was the right thing to do.
The right thing can be the difficult thing. But when we recognize that something is truly over, it’s best not to let it linger. Do the difficult thing, and turn your attention to more pressing matters.