Playing the Game of Transition

For the past 3 years I have served as treasurer of an organization. Since I moved to a new position on the board, a new treasurer was named and we went through the process of transitioning the responsibilities, files and bank signatures.

To be honest, I really thought I’d be delighted to relinquish the books. But, as we sat in the banker’s office and I watched while she deleted my name from the account and destroyed the debit card I had guarded for three years, I felt like I had just adopted out my baby.

The new treasurer is a young capable guy and I know the books will be in good hands. But releasing something you’ve controlled for so long is not easy. Will he be as conscientious as I was? What if he changes the way I did things? Does he think he’s smarter? Will I feel less capable with someone else at the reins? Or (worse) what will the board think about the young fresh breath of air compared to the stale way things had been done for three years?

I suppose a lot of people struggle with similar thoughts during transitions. Kenny Rogers  knew what he was talking about when he sang, “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away, know when to run . . .” Of course, Kenny was talking about the game of poker. But, there’s a great principle buried in those lyrics. I didn’t run from the treasurer’s position. It was just time to fold ’em and move over to a new responsibility so someone else could step up and hold ’em.

How do we know when it’s time to walk away from a responsibility? When our mission is accomplished and someone else is ready to replace us. In fact, the Jenga game holds the secret.

Jenga contains 54 tiles stacked three across, making a tower 18 stories (tiles) high. The object of the game is to carefully move one tile at a time and restack it at the top of the tower without the entire structure collapsing. If the game is played correctly, the structure will double its height to 36 stories. (The current record is a rebuilt Jenga tower measuring 40 stories high.)

The key in moving a Jenga tile is to gently touch it to see if it’s movable. If the tile is loose, the player carefully removes it from its lower spot to a position at the top of the tower. The process continues until all of the pliable pieces have been relocated and those remaining serve as solid support from below for the newly-positioned tiles.

We will know when to relinquish a position when someone else is pliable and ready to move up. Sometimes our only responsibility is to serve as the solid support for our replacement, which is just as important as serving in the actual position. If we play our cards right by knowing when to “hold” and when to “fold”, the organization/team/ministry can substantially increase its effectiveness as it grows higher, thanks to the fresh resources that were pulled from the bottom and relocated to the top.

The most valuable benefit is that EVERYONE grows in the process. Those delegated to a new position at the top can express creativity and fresh ideas. Those remaining at the base become stronger as they flex their muscle in support of others.

Wherever you are–top or bottom–play the game right.