End Well is one of the most challenging Leader Essentials to do well. The way a group finishes plays an important role in the overall quality of the group experience (check out this post for more on that). All groups have a natural life cycle. It's up to a group's leader to work with group members to make a plan for finishing strong and, ideally, launching new groups out of the group that is ending. I've been leading groups for almost 15 years, so I've had plenty of opportunity to botch landings. Here are three things I've learned (the hard way) never to do again:
1. Go with the flow. The end of a group is no time to let nature takes its course. If you don't cast vision and make a plan for ending well, there's little chance your group will actually end well. Believe me. I've tried this approach. It leaves a sour taste in everyone's mouth. To end well, you need to start talking about ending from the time the group forms. The beginning of a group feels like a weird time to talk about its end, but the payoff for doing so is huge down the road. Make it clear that the long-term goal of the group is to make room in the future for others to experience community. It will give your group a direction and sense of purpose. Conversations about ending should become more frequent and more concrete at least 90 days before your intended end date.
2. Put a happy face on it. If you're in a good group, the idea of it ending will be a bummer. Don't pretend it's not. Talking through your fears and anxieties can help ease them and actually build momentum for multiplying. Remind your group members that, even though ending isn't easy, you want to make space for others to experience the kind of life-changing community you have. I've tried to ignore emotions and talk everyone into being happy about ending the group. It doesn't work. Even though it's the sort of thing I'd rather avoid, I've learned to have regular conversations about how everyone is feeling about the group's end . . . especially during those last 90 days.
3. Micromanage it. Leaders take charge. That's what we do. It's why we're leaders. But it's important to remember that ending well is complex. It involves logistics, relationships, emotions, and even geography. Guide the process but remember that you're leading a group of adults who need to feel ownership over the process if it's going to work out. I once pre-determined how my group would divide—who would stay with my wife and me and who would go on to form a new group with our apprentices. My intentions were pure. I wanted to make the process painless for my group members. But the results were a disaster. I couldn't anticipate all of the variables involved in multiplying well. A little more pain along with more ownership by the entire group would've made the transition less awkward.
If you're currently leading a group and you're getting ready to attend GroupLink later this month, I hope you've been talking about ending well. If you haven't, you've lost some precious time but it's not too late. Start conversations with your group members right away. Cast vision for multiplication and make a plan. Involve your group members in the process.
Remember: ending well is something your group does, not something that happens by accident.