Why closure is key to happiness and high performance

Aug 10, 2022
Why closure is key to happiness and high performance

On an individual level, we have all experienced the power of completion. That dopamine rush that brings feelings of accomplishment, satisfaction, and happiness.

Chances are we have all experienced the opposite effect, too. The feeling of stress and mental clutter weighing us down when we have a lack of completion – a list of incomplete tasks and projects preventing us from moving forward with our goals. Our brain keeps track of unfinished business, and in order to move forward, to fully embrace a new experience, project or job, closure is key. Feeling complete clears the path forward.

What happens when you apply this to a team level?

Have you ever experienced leaving a team or a project without an opportunity for closure? Or the departure of a dear colleague or leader without a chance to express how you felt about working with them? How did it make you feel?

Even though it is often ignored and disregarded, completion is an important stage of group development. You’re probably thinking back to having “leaving drinks” when a colleague departs, or a post-work outing to celebrate the end of a project. Yes, these celebrations are important, but they’re only one part of the process. True completion means a lot more. And the best teams create the space for it.

Completion is the space where we harvest the learnings and acknowledge each other as whole people so we can successfully move forward to what is next.

Teams need to create a framework to evaluate the group, capture learnings, express emotional support for one another, and give and receive feedback. Closure, appreciation, learnings, well wishing, and celebrations are important aspects every team needs to incorporate, so that members can leave the group without unfinished business and move forward to successfully play a part in future groups.

The Power of Completion in Action

I recently facilitated a completion process for a leader who had been working in the business – and with this team – for 41 years! This leader happened to be my father who was retiring from his role as Director of the family business that my grandfather started in 1950.

Since I was born, I always knew my father as the Director of the business. My life, his life, and the life of the business have always been connected. I remember the days I spent in the office with him as a toddler and child, running around, “helping” everyone at work.

Over the last four years, I have been working closely with the company and their team, facilitating team development workshops and learning experiences to bring everyone closer together, aligned to a shared purpose, and with enhanced cross-functional understanding, collaboration and internal communications. I loved being involved in this capacity. I love the team. I care about the business. And my relationship with my dad was an added bonus.

So, when it came to his retirement, as my father turned 70, I wanted to walk the talk and create an opportunity for him – and his team – to feel complete.

Transition can be a challenging time for those involved. In this case, this was particularly true because some of the team members have been working in the business even before my dad!

So, we took an afternoon to create a space and framework to share stories and express gratitude. One by one, each team member had the opportunity to express what they appreciated the most about my father, what they learned from him and what they wished for him as he started a new chapter in life. Having listened to everyone and taken in the words of appreciation, my father reflected back on everything he heard, his journey at the company, his learnings, stories and wishes for the team. By the end of the session, we had tears, laughter, hugs, joy, gratitude, celebration – and closure. It was an experience that empowered us all to move forward.

As one team member described:

“Everyone left feeling lighter, grateful, renewed. As for your father, I could see how important it was for him. He’s always carried a huge responsibility…With all the words and affection he received, he gained a new energy!”

In the words of my father:

"It was fantastic! It was a real completion of a cycle. I'm grateful I could express how important they all have been, and for all the honesty and love that was present. I wasn't expecting to hear all the beautiful words and stories that I heard, to feel this level of openness and care from everyone. Despite having worked together for years, or even decades, I feel I got to know each one of them more deeply."

As for me, I’m so grateful for everyone’s trust and openness to invite me to come on this journey in a dual role as family and facilitator. It was a special moment that will stay with me – and hopefully with everyone – forever.

Closure is key to allow happiness and high performance in whatever comes next.


Paula Benetton

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