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The Show Must Go On

October 24, 2012
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“I guess I'm learning
I must be warmer now
I'll soon be turning
Round the corner now
outside the dawn is breaking
but inside in the dark I'm aching to be free”

It strikes a nerve with me when I hear this now famous song by Queen (also performed by Queen + Paul Rodgers – which I like as well!), and I begin to think about the times during my career when I decided to call it quits and move on to greener pastures. You know the feeling, right? The mind begins to wander, and you begin to question your decisions - how will this organization function without my leadership, and what about the major projects underway? Surely they will fall apart if I leave now? And what about the great team I have in place, including those who joined the organization because of me? What will happen to them and their careers after I’m long gone?

Oh, the guilt…

OK - stop right there! Here’s the deal: while the organization is hopefully much better off having had you steer the ship and lead – trust me when I tell you - the show will go on after you are gone. It just will. I talk with candidates all of the time who have a complete guilt trip and are disillusioned over the pending organizational failure in their absence. They labor over leaving; many actually feel physically sick! OUCH! Just that thought alone is (very) scary! Teams that are deep and wide are built with great people deliver value every day. If the organization does fall apart if you leave, it was likely not built with a solid foundation to begin with. I highly doubt it will fail just because you have decided to move on.

I never recommend that you “time a departure”, as in most cases you will always find a good reason to believe that now or any time in the future is never the right time to leave. It’s just not true. Sure, if you have a “go-live” date that’s two weeks out, I could understand why a few more weeks makes better sense for you to give you time to protect your brand equity and see a major project materialize - I get that. That same argument several months out, however, probably doesn’t hold water. When you grow tired of what you are doing, or find yourself working for a toxic or a terrible leader, you have to make a decision for you, your family and your career. It’s really that simple.

“My soul is painted
like the wings of butterflies
fairytales of yesterday
will grow but never die
I can fly my friends”

As much as we all think about our real organizational value - deep organizations are not predicated by the tenure of any single individual. And, yes, the show will go on with or without you!