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shelf life

The term “shelf life” is defined as the time an item remains usable.  This phrase is often attributed to food products and how long they can remain edible and not spoil.  Some foods have rather long shelf lives (like twinkies) and some have short ones (like milk and eggs).  While this term is mostly used in the food and beverage world, other things have shelf lives too. 

Everything has a start point and an end point, right?  We are born and someday we will pass on.  Businesses start and someday evolve or fold up their tents.  Programs have a life span.  Events we work on, non-profits we create, relationships we build, they all have their own forms of shelf lives.  Looking back at just this past week in the football world, we can see clear examples of this concept.

Coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots “moved on” from one another after 24 years and six Superbowl wins.

Coach Nick Saban retired as the head coach at Alabama after 17 years and six national championships there.

Both of these coaches are considered the greatest of all time (or the “G.O.A.T”) at their respective levels.  However at some point in time, the concept of shelf life touches everyone.  Even the best of the best.  There is a tipping point, if you will, where it is best for a different leader to take over.

One of my mentors once told me (paraphrasing here), “It isn’t healthy for one individual to lead an organization for an overly extended period of time.  Every entity needs a different voice or different style of leader at various times of its evolution.”  This concept applies to (yes) football coaches, yet also to non-profits, for-profit companies, universities, hospitals, you name it.  It applies to all of us and those that we serve.

Just to be sure we are on the same page here, we are not talking about someone or something else…..

It applies to me and you too.

That mentor of mine I mentioned earlier is no regular Joe.  He has taken a small family company and over the years has built it into one of the largest and most successful global brands in its industry.  His comments about basically, “there is a time for change in everything,” has stuck with me for over a decade.

For leaders reading this today, here is the big thought for this week’s Huddle Up…..

What program, person, objective, or vision, has hit its shelf life?  Where are changes needed today that will set things up for success long into the future?

These are tough questions to ask for sure.  I can tell you in my career, I’ve personally arrived at a point (on a couple of occasions) where I thought that the entity I was leading would be in better hands with someone else at the helm.  Even after a lot of success in both cases. 

No one and nothing is immune to the theory of shelf life.  Even highly successful people, great coaches, awesome programs, superior leaders.  At some point the time comes for change.

Be the leader of that change when the time comes.  Do what is best for those you serve.  Football program or otherwise.  (And no, I’m not retiring any time soon, but that time will come someday).

Happy MLK Day.  Have a great (short week) ahead.

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