Our culture honors beginnings. First loves. Grand openings. New product launches. Fresh starts. Clean slates. New beginnings.

We are often not very good at endings. Bad business break-ups; messy divorces. We fear a lay-off even when we hate the job we have or losing a relationship even when it is bringing us down. We don’t feel prepared to handle the ending.

A bad ending leaves us with negative baggage

A number of my executive coaching clients are facing an uncertain future in their current leadership positions. As major shifts occur in their corporations, they and the people they lead are facing personal transitions. Some have already made a decision to move on while others are waiting a bit longer to see how events play out. In every case, it is natural for them to shift their energy to the future; sift through their options, and try to position themselves to best take advantage of opportunities that may surface. I am urging them to pay attention to how they end this phase of life and career. I am coaching them to “end well”.

Often, an ending time is filled with tension. Many may not welcome the change. Others may blame us as leaders for things that we had no control over. We may find it difficult to lead with the same passion and commitment as things wind down. We may be distracted ourselves with questions of “what next?” and get careless or indifferent in our last weeks or months as our energy shifts to our future.

Bad endings can sully years of achievement and shared joy. We leave with ill will and diminish relationships that have been important for years. We may become wary about making new commitments because we don’t want to go through the pain of another bad ending.

A good ending is the springboard to a successful new beginning

A high quality ending completes a situation with no regrets, our heads held high and our relationships enhanced. There’s no resentment, anger or wishing later that we had finished up with more grace and gratitude. In a good ending we build in time to acknowledge and thank those who shared the journey with us; to especially honor those who inspired us, taught us and had our backs through thick and thin. A strong ending requires we tie up any loose ends and clean up any lingering conflicts so we leave things in good shape for our successor.

A great good-bye creates a finish line that we can all celebrate. It leaves us unencumbered and light on our feet as we move to the next race we choose to run. It offers us an enhanced network of relationships and a strong reputation in the marketplace. We have the wind at our back. We leave with sadness but also gratitude. We move forward with freedom and ease.

Exuberant leaders create great good-byes for everyone involved

As a leader in your organization, create an opportunity for everyone to say good-bye. Bring your team together. Give them a chance to acknowledge each other. Be sure to allow them an opportunity to thank you as their leader. This is not a time for modesty. It’s not about your ego. It’s about creating a venue for everyone to “tie a ribbon” around the time they have spent in the arena together. To publicly declare the difference you have made in each other’s lives.

Design a truly memorable last offsite meeting. Tell some stories, relive your most challenging and harrowing times. Laugh out loud together. Share what touched your heart and what you will take with you wherever you go. Insure that your final days together are as rewarding as the very best moments along the way.

Create a list of all the people who have been significant to you in this chapter of your life. Carry out a plan to communicate with each of them before you go; from a simple message of thanks for some to a more personal acknowledgement for others. In a few cases, it may even include an apology or forgiveness for an old misstep on your part. You may need to forgive yourself in order to move on freely.

And then, say “good-bye”.