On Transitions

On Transitions
August 13, 2019 Summit Coffee
In Blog

I mentioned in my post last week about Evan’s departure that transitions are, more or less, points in time between other transitions. Life is full of them, and business are constantly trying to navigate them.

Evan leaving brings an end, somewhat, to the most transitory time at Summit since Tim moved to Connecticut in the spring of 2016. And there are two distinct ways to reflect on transitions, or turnover if you prefer that word, although the truth most certainly lies somewhere between them.

The first way to look at transitions, I think, is to worry. It’s to wonder what’s wrong with Summit, wonder why people aren’t staying forever. Is it a decision we made, or a reflection on the company’s leadership and direction? This way of thinking involves a lot of doubt. It’s perhaps healthy to explore this path, but for me at least, it’s also healthy not to spend too much time walking in this direction. It sucks to lose people, it’s tedious to interview and interview some more, and ultimately, orient someone to a new company or a new position.

Evan is leaving, in about 5 hours, and he’s following some other Summit staples who’ve moved in different directions in the past nine months: Lane, Alex, Dave. The core group of longtime Summit stalwarts made some real magic together. There have been a couple handfuls of pioneers who have helped Summit grow from one shop to the company and brand we are today. Several of these people still work together at Summit, but several have decided to leave.

The other way to look at transitions, I think, is as an opportunity. There’s something convenient about cohesive growth. We understand each other’s motivations, and pet peeves. We have learned how to communicate, how to build each other up. I believe, however, that convenience can turn into complacency awfully quickly. And it’s dangerous because when it happens, it’s usually a team epidemic — not one person, but the collective “we” that’s been built over years together.

I don’t think Summit has been complacent. I do know, however, that when you predict precisely what your coworkers are going to say in meetings, it becomes harder to keep innovating and growing. I’ve also learned that you cannot instruct people to “innovate!” and expect immediate and grand results.

I hate goodbyes. I very easily dip into the pool of doubt. I explore that first path of transition — we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well in the last year. But I also am an optimist, and I am leading a company where I implore everyone to be optimistic, to assume the best in others. It’s a genuine feeling, too. Feigned optimism doesn’t last very long, and if I have learned anything leading Summit since 2011 it’s that we need to be genuine in how we’re feeling.

So here we are, at a transition and at an opportunity. Being in transition forces us to open our eyes, our ears, to look for and listen to new voices and new ideas. We’ve got plenty of people with plenty to say who already work with us. There are also plenty of people interested in working for Summit with ideas and energy, different from the ideas and energy that have been in the Summit offices for the last few years.

I’m as excited as ever to be leading this company. Sure, I miss Lane and Alex and Dave, just like I have missed Tim and will miss Evan. I’m also an emotional being who thrives on being known (and appreciated). But, Summit is doing some wonderful things. One of our new applicants for Evan’s Director of Coffee job commented in his interview that it was telling how Evan was sitting in on the process — that, even employees on their way to new opportunities want what’s best for Summit.

I’m as excited as ever because I believe, fully, in the people still here. I believe in the impact they’ve made, and the impact they will make with more opportunity and more freedom to innovate. I believe in the lasting impact that the Evans of the Summit world have left, and how that will continue to help us spin forward. I’m as excited as ever because Summit means so much to so many people, and while some chapters come to an end, there are so many more still to be written. New characters, new stories, new plot twists, new lows and new highs.

We’re at a transition in that new people will be making some important decisions for the first time in a while. But we’re at an opportunity to bring fresh perspective, to embrace newer faces and different voices.

The last several years steered by the Summit crew of yesterday have been remarkable. They were the right team for that moment in time. And I believe with every fiber in my being that the next several years steered by the Summit crew of today and tomorrow will be different, and just as remarkable.

Here’s to seeing transitions as an opportunity. An opportunity to appreciate and learn from the past, to be present in this moment, and to keep heading on toward some wonderful new things awaiting us.

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