The Upside and Downside of Long Tenure
I am approaching twenty years of service at the Georgia Baptist Mission Board in a few months and preceded that with fourteen plus years in a local church. I am somewhat familiar with long tenure. As I approach the milestone of twenty years, I am having a conversation with myself. I do not want to be that person that hangs on so long that people are whispering and wondering “when will he step out of the way?” I want to lead effectively, make a positive impact, and leave at the right time whether it is a year from now or a decade from now. Therefore, I am refreshing myself with some thoughts on the upside and the downside of a long tenure.
If you have been at your place of service or leadership for more than a decade, you would do well to ponder alongside of me. If this is your first week on the job, the points can be likewise instructive. I want to share my top five thoughts on the upside of long tenure and then my top five on the downside with a very brief comment on each. Here we go:
- Deep relationships. Friendships grow strong when you work day in and day out with a group of team members over the course of many years.
- Stability. You and your family stay rooted in a community and disruptions are minimized to some degree.
- Ability to Mentor. You know where the landmines are. You have seen people fired, failed, and get in hot water. You know very well how to avoid those landmines and can help others avoid the same fate.
- Benefits. In most organizations, benefits accumulate with longer tenure, whether it is salary, eligibility for additional time off, or special advantages that come with both tenure and sometimes advancement.
- Satisfaction. Perhaps you are stuck. But more likely in the American economy you have stayed because you enjoy your work and get great satisfaction from what you do and who you work alongside.
- Unhealthy Repetition. If you are not careful, you will rely on yesterday’s victories for tomorrows battles. It is too easy to rely on what happened last time without taking a fresh look and improving the process for the next implementation whether it is budgeting, events, strategy, or annual obligations.
- Skills Isolation. What if the role you have now disappeared? Have you developed skills that make you valuable in a variety of contexts or have you isolated your skill set?
- Complacency. The longer you are in one location, the greater the temptation to “coast” instead of “innovate.” It takes no energy to “coast.”
- Stunted Personal Growth. At the point you fail to grow, you forfeit your right to lead. If you are not careful you will mistake tenure for growth. They are not the same thing.
- Arrogance. Arrogance in this instance occurs when you feel like the processes, standards and rules do not apply to you. Those are for the “rookies” and the other staff who don’t know how to get around them.
I am committing myself to avoid the downside of long tenure as I bust through the twenty-year mark. I am talking to myself and inviting you to listen in and I have no one else in mind. But I know how it goes when I write articles like this. “Is he talking about me?” No, but as the proverb goes, If the shoe fits, wear it! Because if you do, you are on the path to maximizing your leadership.