Letting Go

There is real friction working against our ability to leave a job and move to a new one. As I transition from my current change role at an insurance company to that of European vagrant I’m given an opportunity to feel that friction first hand. I am sure that we all experience it slightly differently, but I also suspect that at the root of the friction regardless of how expressed is a fundamental fear of the unknown combined with a grief for the loss of the familiar.

I’ve been asked several times during the past two weeks: What are you going to miss? There are politically correct answers to this question. You can’t go wrong if you mouth some platitudes about fine people, quality leadership, professional challenges. And I’m not saying those are illegitimate. You might actually be fortunate enough to be leaving an organisation where everything rocks, the people are fantastic, and your role is amazing. It begs the question then of WHY are you leaving but you might have a reason. You might be like me and leaving because something in your personal life is simply more important than anything in your professional life. Not the most statistically probable use case, though. Most of the time we are not going to something, we are moving away from something. So go ahead and in the interest of not cockblocking your future prospects, say something nice and banal. No one is going to give you a hard time… particularly not if you live in New Zealand where everyone knows absolutely everyone else and where the labour pool for any given sub-speciality can fit into a mid-sized jazz club.

If you are like me in the change space, it is far more likely you leave an organisation only slightly less fsked than when you first walked in the door. We basically don’t get hired unless the place is already broken or someone has decided to do something sufficiently enormous that it will break everyone. Also, we routinely only get paid until ‘the end of the project’ defined as some few days or weeks after go-live and easily 3 to 12 months before anyone has actually adapted to the introduced change. There is a whole blog entry to be unpacked in that problem alone. Suffice it to say that I often struggle to answer questions on my departure in ways that are both politically correct AND accurate.

What am I going to miss most about my current role? To be perfectly honest, I will miss the credibility that I have built over three years. Brand, ego, identity, influence, de facto power to lead change even in the absence of any authority or budget… those take time to build. I’ve never been able to get too far along the process in a contract role, mostly because the jobs simply don’t last long enough. You can get traction within the subset of stakeholders on a given project, but to build a broad platform and voice takes a long, consistent, and reliable record which I’ve only managed to do twice in my career. Both times, I’ve found it extremely difficult to walk away from. Even though I have all the motivation and no regrets for the decision (in both cases), I’m an egotistical attention freak, and I find it almost painfully difficult to let go of popularity. BTW, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone at my middle and high schools for being such colossal pricks and creating such a needy, insecure and pathetic whiney little inner child; I’ll carry this little cry baby in the back of my head till my grave.

I will also miss the challenge. I bitch about so many things, and yet every one of those problems is job security and an opportunity to Do Something Useful. Insurance is an industry in the middle of The Great Disruption. The people and customer challenges that surface literally every day are daunting, sometimes terrifying, always fascinating. I suppose that I could slip into virtually any mainstream business in all sectors and find the same conditions because this disruption thing is pretty ubiquitous in 2019. But this is the first time since leaving the Silicon Forest where I viscerally felt the revolution and its impact on established ways of thinking and working, behaviours and business models. I get bored easily and the sheer intensity and multiplicity of the crises facing the insurance and financial sector globally kept me awake at work every day, engaged actively in trying to contribute to ways of helping people adapt.

I’m going to miss my morning commute. Walk to ferry, ferry to Auckland, walk to my office. I loved working in the heart of the city, ambling around the Viaduct as a break in the middle of the day, working out at the gym just a block away. Don’t discount the value of working in a physical environment that makes you smile every day.

I’m going to miss the laughter of our team. We are loud. We are probably annoying to the people around us. I cannot remember a day in recent months where we did not share at least one deep belly laugh.

I’m afraid of a future in which my only companion is my loving but very quiet husband. It’s a future where I won’t deliver workshops. I won’t get to see people’s eyes light up when an idea I’ve been able to surface connects with something inside them. I won’t get ‘inside information’ from leaders who are making the Big Decisions. I won’t get my ego stroked by someone asking me for advice or coming to me to get the back story. I won’t know the answers and no one will ask a question. I won’t be busy. I won’t be important. To someone. To anyone but Dean. Like… literally ANY ONE. Feeling a bit ‘back side of the change curve’ desperation in that last thought.

In our own minds, we are the centre of the universe. The universe, therefore, should simply move its ass to Europe for me so I won’t feel this existential dread. Change agent, heal thyself… point that head towards the future state. My future state is probably stoned in a café outside Amsterdam contemplating the absurdity of driving on the wrong side of a snowy road all the way to Spain. Could be worse.

Change can be scary, but you know what’s scarier? Allowing fear to stop you from growing, evolving and progressing.” ~ Mandy Hale

Karen ToastComment