When I left my last job, and the team of great people I got to call friends and colleagues, I left behind a note for them as the best possible way I could say some of what I wanted to end our professional relationship with. Much of that note was for them, and has no place online, but some of the letter, a bit of “last advice,” was as much for me moving into my new position as it was for them staying on to do what I used to. And I don’t want to forget what I said. It was, for me, a challenge to myself.
Transitions are special moments, moments where we seem to be granted a bit of pause, a bit less to do, and the opportunity to think deeply about what’s happened, and what’s yet to be. The yet to be bit here is important. Transitions are also special because there’s no set way to do the new things that are to come. Habits don’t yet exist. So I wanted some words by which to guide the new habit formation I’ve been doing for the last three weeks now, and hope to be fiddling with for the next several months. Here’s what I suggested they remember to do and be, and here’s what I hoped for myself as I moved forward, too:
What follows is a little bit directed at you, but it’s also a reminder for me as I head into my next thing.
Consider this my last request – if a departing colleague gets one. It’s pretty simple, and it’s somebody else’s line, but it’s this:
Be excellent to each other. In all you do.
By “excellent” I mean kind. Fair. Honest. Open. Patient. Gentle. Firm. Hold each other to high standards. Be brave. Take turns being brave. Help each other be brave when you can’t be yourselves. Be tenacious. When something matters, make sure it matters. And when it doesn’t, please let it go, gracefully. Serve one another, in big things and little things. Especially little things – they’re practice for the big ones.
By “each other” I mean, well, each other. But I also mean everyone you come into contact with. Especially the folks we serve. I am guilty of being too quick to judge sometimes. Some ideas won’t have merit. Some products aren’t good for children. But be big enough to be excellent to anyone who offers something your way.
Basically, be the amazing teachers I know you to be. To all people and in all situations. That’s what I wanted from this team when it was just me. And then two. Then three. Now six. And we’ve done pretty good so far. I’ve stumbled. We’ve all stumbled. There are stumbles ahead. But when we’re at our best, we’re excellent to each other. If I’ve such a thing as a legacy here, I’d want it to be that.
I don’t much care, in the grandest scheme of things, about technology chops. Or about spreadsheets, TPS reports, or the odd other deliverables that can and often should get made in the course of one’s work. If the being excellent happens, then the rest will come along.
So my challenge to myself, as I dig deeper into my new work, is to do my best to be excellent to everybody I come across. It’s a mighty challenge, one I’ll fail at often, but one worth taking a big swing at.
And all my new habits, I hope, are aimed in that direction.
There’s more to say about my new role and my new work, and the incredible people I’m serving now, but that’s another post.