Tetelestai is a wonderfully rich Greek word.  Somewhat poorly translated it means, “It is finished!”

As part of my work as a consultant I conduct vice presidential-level searches for institutions.  A first-hand observation I would make after looking at thousands of resumes – many people leave positions too quickly.

Different studies place the average tenure of development professionals at somewhere between 1-4 years. Not good for institutions nor for professional growth.

The problem with such short-term professional patterns really emerges when you dig a bit deeper into the motivations of these folk.   What you typically find is that individuals who leave quickly after accepting a development position have little sense of the work.  They have a strong sense of the position and of professional advancement (which is why they usually take the new position).  But they have little sense of what they were to accomplish in their position.

For every job we take, we should establish a finish line.  We should have a clear sense of how we will know when we have completed the work that the institution needs us to complete.  What is it that needs to get done?  What should I accomplish in this role?

When we ask these strategic questions of ourselves, we become appropriately focused on the broader purpose of our roles.  We aren’t governed by a calendar (“I’ve been here 3 years, time to move on”) or driven by a to-do list (“I’m bored with my job”).  Instead, we let accomplishment and outcomes determine the right time to depart or to continue at an institution.

A philosophy of Tetelestai! would transform our institutions.  Each of us has a bigger job to do than just our title.  And I would argue that those who focus on the work and not the position achieve more, stay longer, are promoted, and feel better about themselves.

“It is finished!”  And when it is, then it’s the right time to think about moving on.


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