Recently, my family came together during a difficult time, when my father had a stroke. As we gathered together in the hospital, often our conversations would turn to our memories of the words of wisdom he had shared over the years. Some of it was quite funny, but all of it was wise, so I thought it would be appropriate to share some of the wisdom I have learned from him through the years. Some are a repeat of previous posts (because I had already been sharing his wisdom), and some are topics I haven’t shared before. My father went home to be with His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, on Sunday, May 8, 2016. I grieve at the loss of my hero, mentor, and friend, but I rejoice at the celebration of his arrival in heaven.
This week, I am sharing something he said to me several times in my adult life, and it centers around the way in which you leave a job.
When my dad passed away a couple of weeks ago, my family all gathered together for the viewing and the funeral, in order to grieve over the loss and to celebrate the godly man and influence that he was to us and to so many others. When I went to the first viewing and was looking at the various floral arrangements that had been sent with notes of condolences, I immediately saw the arrangement that came from my present employer. I greatly appreciated this, and I knew that they were supporting me and mourning with me in the way that the book of Ecclesiastes says to “mourn with those who mourn.” But then I saw an arrangement from my previous employer, expressing sympathy and encouragement as well. I had not expected this, even though it had been a very amicable parting, because – well, because I no longer worked there. Seeing it, though, reminded me of something my dad had said to me over the years of my adult working life: “Always leave so that you’re welcome back.”
Throughout my adult life (actually, since my teenage years) I have had the privilege of working at a wide variety of jobs that, taken together, have helped to shape the person I am today. Most of that time – approximately 25 years – has been spent in one particular career field (Christian education), but much of my work experience has been outside of that career context. Some jobs have been part-time, or for the purpose of a second income or a specific financial need, or for a temporary time period. Some were very brief, and some I did not enjoy at all, but even those provided valuable life lessons. But in all of them, my father reminded me of how important it was to finish well, and in such a way that if you were ever to want to come back to that place, you would be welcomed willingly. Seeing those flowers from my previous employer was a refreshing reminder that I had been able to do so.
Sadly, too many people don’t do this. They may “check out” while still showing up and collecting a paycheck for a period of time, they may stick around while spreading negative words and feelings, they may undermine the organization in order to be vengeful, or any number of other behaviors that reflect poor character, harm the organization, and hurt their own reputation. They leave in way that makes others glad they are gone. One of the reasons why I believe I am accurate in saying this is because of the times when my supervisors have been genuinely surprised that I finished well when they knew I would soon be leaving. They communicated the impression that they were used to people not leaving well, so for me to counter that expectation was a surprise.
I strongly believe good leaders should reflect good character and integrity, the kind that people will still speak about after you are gone. And one of the ways that is demonstrated is in how you leave. These words of wisdom from my dad, if you will use them to frame your mindset when your time at a place is coming to a close, can help you leave the right way, in such a way that you would always be welcome back.