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Leadership In Action: Knowing when to quit, to change or to start afresh

Are you good at quitting? I’ve become a little obsessed with quitting this year. Because for far too long before that, I’d fallen into that trap of saying yes to everything. Yes, I could work that extra day. Yes, I could launch that new product line. Yes, I can take over that project that’s spiraling out of control. Yes, I could write an article for that magazine I love. Yes, I could Chair the board of that charity I’m passionate about. Yes, I could speak to that women’s networking group (BEFORE breakfast time and I don’t even do breakfasts!) Yes, I could advocate for childcare reforms (because goodness knows we all need that to be fixed!!!)


Yes, for all the right reasons. And sometimes the wrong ones too.

We’re told to just say yes, and open ourselves up to opportunities. And I admit, for the most part, yes has been good to me! It’s taught me a lot about myself, my limits and my potential. And it’s also weighed me down, and at times its had me focused on the wrong things.

My observation is that it’s not just individuals that face the “yes dilemma”; every business is tackling it too. So much to do, so many opportunities, so little time.

I believe a dangerous trend has been emerging in business: answering every question with a yes.

Should that customer segment be targeted? Yes, why not! Could this product be improved, or superseded or retired? Yes, of course it can! Could we deliver our products in a more efficient way. Yes, we must. But does that always mean doing more? Or is the answer, in fact, to simply do less? At least for a while.

newsweekA great example is the iconic Newsweek. In December 2012 management announced the inevitable yet unthinkable: after 80 years the print edition would disappear in favor of digital. The printing presses were turned off and the apps were switched on. My weekly post box delivery came to an end. This is the future of news we were told. But guess what? Fast forward just over a year, and a print version of the magazine was resurrected. The new print edition is satisfying loyal customers. And online traffic has tripled, attracting new customers in the process. Saying no to print – at least for a while – solved a huge business challenge. And as proof that no decision needs to be forever, the current outcome is so much better for the business and its customers.

thedipSeth Godin has written about quitting in his book The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick). Godin says the trick is not to be afraid of failing; but to learn when to quit. What are the signs of failure? How do you assess progress against strategic plans? And if you have to quit, when is the right time?

For me, this year has been the right time to quit a number of things. For I know this is also the only way to open new doors.

words of goodbye jpeg

Earlier this month I handed over the Make Care Fair campaign to Danielle Robertson from Dial An Angel who will be continuing the push on childcare reforms. Danielle – who is also President of the Australian Nanny Association and has been involved in the Productivity Commission Review on Childcare – has begun reinvigorating the campaign and she needs everyone to sign the new petition on So if you haven’t done that yet please take a moment to do it here and to share it with your friends.

I also decided that it was the right time say goodbye to my business, sphinxx. Many of you will have been involved in the sphinxx programs over the past six or so years, having been part of our mentoring programs or Ascend development days or online programs. I have really enjoyed getting to know you and learn from you, and I look forward to continuing our friendships via The SheEO blog (which I’m happy to say is definitely here to stay!)

As I’ve been cleaning out my office and tidying up my loose ends I came across a poem a dear friend gave me 18 years ago when I had closed one door in my personal life and was preparing to open a new one with my move here to Sydney. Cate, thank you for sharing these beautiful words and they remain as relevant and precious to me today as they were all those years ago.

In case you’ve been contemplating your own goodbyes of sorts, here is some inspiration…



 After a while you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul
And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning
And company doesn’t mean security.

And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises.

And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open,
With the grace of an adult
Not the grief of a child.

And you learn to build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans,
And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.

After a while you learn
That even sunshine burns if you get too much.
So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.

And you learn that you can really endure…
That you really are strong,
And you really do have worth.

And you learn and learn
With every goodbye you learn.

“Comes The Dawn” by Veronica Shoffstall


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