Posted by Ryan Lynch, AIF®, Product Manager, fi360, Inc. on December 03, 2015
“Today may be the enemy of your tomorrow”. The opening line of Dr. Henry Cloud’s book, Necessary Endings, serves as a cautionary adage of the impact of now on later. The average American adult makes 35,000 decisions per day: a third round on the snooze button, left instead of right, wheat over white. The sci-fi geek in me likes to consider that each decision spawns an alternate reality that continually reshapes one’s destiny at each fork in the road (think butterfly effect). And while your bread choice at lunch probably won’t have any long-term impact, the larger decisions made – or avoided – can have profound implications.
Using a rosebush as a metaphor, Dr. Cloud describes three types of “pruning” for executing what he terms a “necessary ending”. The first type is the removal of average buds that don’t have the potential to be great. The next is the clipping of sick branches that are not going to get better. Lastly is the pruning of dead branches that are taking up space. In practice, the “average buds” are those initiatives, clients, or offerings that are diverting resources from core competencies. Similarly, the “sick branches” are those that have not been able to recover in spite of efforts to mend them. The “dead branches” are most harmful in that they may actually sabotage the success of the endeavors where the highest return is expected.
Consider two elements critical to any business: clients and offerings. Chances are that some clients afford a higher margin or great revenue potential than others. Similarly, certain products and services are inherently more profitable. At times, those clients and offerings that aren’t very valuable are those that may have been a good fit at one time, but whose time has passed. At the fi360 INSIGHTS Conference in 2014, Ann Schleck and Michael Muirhead touched on the need to reprice or let go of clients that require a high level of resources but offer a low return on investment (‘Strategies for Success – Ten Performance Drivers’). Such a discussion is not an easy one to have because it can lead to hurt feelings or even a blemish on your reputation. However, when executed with forethought, empathy and grace, the hurt is short-lived and the harm in dragging out the ill fit will be avoided.
As an employee, pruning is a critical skill in one’s tool belt. The era of the paternal employer that will train and develop its workforce with expectation of lifelong service and a guaranteed retirement benefit is over. The defined-contribution plan is one of many indicators of the paradigm shift of responsibility from employer to employee. According to the Bureau of Labor, the median number of years a salaried worker had been with his or her current employer was 4.6 years (as of January 2014). Assuming a forty year career, that means the closing of nearly nine hefty chapters in one’s professional life alone. You can either ignore this statistic and hope that you are an outlier, or embrace the reality of change and position yourself to affect it. Most jobs will reach a point of stagnation or saturation wherein the role has either been outgrown or both the employee and position would be better served by a fresh perspective from new talent. In either case, your rosebush has acquired a sick or dying branch hampering its growth.
Endings happen. Pruning takes us to and through them proactively. Today, even this very moment, affords an opportunity to acknowledge the average and unnecessary in your life. A rosebush left untended will never reach its full potential, so get out your shears and get to work.