Ending on a High Note: April 2012

Recently at customer service trainings, we discuss that, even the most irate customer maybe converted into your loyal proponents, if one works hard at having a good “final” experience with the people or the brand; It maybe an airline that loses your baggage, but treats you with respect and delivers it promptly upon receipt; it maybe the hotel that messes up your reservation, but upgrades you to a better room and gives you free breakfast! In both examples, one leaves feeling treated with respect and eventually forgives the mistakes.

Almost two years ago, I wrote about, both personally and professionally, how we often have  Difficulty with Endings  – but now I am even more convinced that life is a better experience if we let some things end – and end gracefully – on a high note.

I remember, a few years ago, when I was taking on a new role, my predecessor was having a really tough time letting go; we met at dinner the first time and he kept his arms folded all through, accusing others for the upcoming change.

Recently my teenager told me about one of her best friends, and how she has changed, and cannot be friends with this other girl who she was really close to, two summers away. This other friend, however, is having a very difficult time letting the friendship go.

Sometimes we forget that, other than biological relationships, or personally owned businesses – almost everything else, has a termination possibility. It maybe a role in an organization or a long-term relationship; in either case, the ending itself, need not be difficult. It is only as tragic, as we make it.

In many cases, an ending also means a new beginning – a renaissance of sorts – to start with new possibilities and opportunities.

Just like customers at an organization, many of us will only remember the last experience we have with someone. Sometimes it’s the last hug we give someone – at other times it’s just a strong hand-shake or a smile that says, thank you.

Ending on a high note, in a role in an organization, or in personal life, has many positive outcomes. I remember recently, ending a professional role; after my boss broke the news that my role was being re-organized,  I thanked my him for giving me the opportunity to learn with him for several years and have the privilege of serving with such a distinguished team. I truly had a great time working there, and carry on some amazing memories.

I have maintained tremendous relationships with many of my former bosses and colleagues, because, I have always tried to leave a role on the highest tempo! I know, going forward, that particular moment is something they are likely to remember for a very long time.

Whether in personal or professional roles, finding the right tempo and balance, when an ending happens, is tough; however, if we keep the long-term perspective in view, we realize that our lives, and experiences, are not a still photograph – its more like a multi-color series of videos all coming together masterfully. One must prepare themselves for endings – and more importantly, when that end happens, embrace it with grace and dignity.

Those who carry bitterness within themselves, or blame others for their own misery, carry a heavy burden of anxiety and worry. Life’s too short to carry such a burden. That burden eventually shapes our personality and changes our outlook to bitterness. If you read about Richard Nixon or watch the movie about him, you will see how his bitterness affected our nation’s political psyche, for a long time.

Gibran said eloquently in The Prophet, “If you love something, set it free if it comes back, it’s yours; if not, it was never meant to be.” Whether it’s work, or life, it’s all about letting things go – most things do come to and end; Let the end come to all of us in peace.