2011 – my sabbatical. I closed my company, dismissed all the employees and stored all the furniture. My customers were informed in the hope they would be there when I returned. To dismiss my staff was a difficult and sad decision. Would we continue working together after this year? Where would we be? Would we have changed? Although we had all agreed on my sabbatical and did all the preparation together, in the end it was I taking full responsibility for this decision. Was it a mistake? What if I could not manage a new start? Now I know that this one sabbatical year was probably the most courageous and most important decision of my life up to that time. It seemed I had no other choice. As after 15 years of building up a company and doing consultancy work I really did need a break.
I wanted to dance, a good way to fill my year without work. As I am a Latin competitive dancer I knew London would be a good place to dance. So I went to London in search of an apartment, a dance studio and a dancing partner. I met crowded trains and busses, rush on the streets, endless ways to every destination and the difficult search for a dance studio. Exhausted I paused in a café asking why I did this to myself. In Hannover I had everything, a dancing partner, trainers, friends and a lovely apartment. Why did I come to this hustle in London? An old dream? Then it dawned on me: I felt ashamed.
I felt ashamed to take a year off work. What would my business environment think when I suddenly stopped working? Would they think I went broke? It didn’t cross my mind that people might think my decision was courageous and luxurious. London was my way of running away from the “might-rumours.” As soon as I discovered this shame and that I put this burden of moving to London on myself because of others, I packed my belongings and went back to Hannover.
I went to come back. I went to see that this year was about me and not about what others might think of me.
The decision to go to London and to try to live there was absolutely right. I needed this way to get back to what is essential for me. In the last years since I began working again as a change consultant I see that organisational decisions are made in moments of clarity. When carrying out action, however, some leaders note that they now want to take another path. To have the courage to make a new decision, and to “break-up” the previously chosen way for another way is a big challenge for most people. Weakness or inconsequence is easily assumed in such situations. Loss of face – at least the fear of it – are near. To understand “broken-up” paths in a new way, and see them as a knowledge benefit in order to interpret a newly made decision as power – that is the challenge!