"If I were 22" series. Young adults are walking through graduation, people are making mid-career transitions and there are those contemplating life without work. As the pages in our life fold, advice of any kind always raises our ears (or maybe an eyebrow). Often, people look back at their mistakes and seek to deter those younger from such regrettable action (or inaction). I don't have that problem. I've screwed up many times, there are people I wish I had treated differently and times I wish I had stuck up for myself. Overall, however, my life has been nothing but magnificent. I am truly grateful!
Why have I been so fortunate in life? I would guess it is a combination of strategic career planning, divine self awareness, and a little luck. All of these things have their place in our lives. Some things we can control and some we cannot.
Here's How To Know The Difference!
Trial By Fire
I worked a long time for a company that had excellent training, extraordinary Executive Leadership, a world-class sales organization and brilliant products and services. It was a supreme training ground for a young professional. I earned a plethora of successes that included achievement trips, outstanding performance awards, project leads and accelerated opportunities for advancement. The experience was irreplaceable.....not for what I gained but for what I lost.
Amid the aforementioned all-star accolades the company struggled mightily in two areas:
- Poor Middle Management
- Poisonous Company Culture
It's been said a million times: people don't leave companies they leave bosses. This is astoundingly true! Extremely talented people always have options. More often than not the extremely talented are limited by their (far less talented) bosses. Great middle managers put the aspirations or their employees over their own. Poor managers hide their all-star talent, claim successes as their own, and keep their team achievements in a bottle. This creates a revolving door; exiting extreme talent while maintaining mediocre middle management...over and over again. It happens more than it does not. Sad!
"We're not here to pat you on the back for showing up. You produce and get paid handsomely. That's all that matters." - The Worst Manager I Ever Had
It makes me sad remembering the quote above. For years, I had envisioned a collective workforce (even in sales). This person's idea of motivation was to create internal competition, highlight failures in public, and to constantly remind employees that they were replaceable. Sad!
I Quit (and here's why)!
As I watched my company become a prison I started planning my next career step. Most would have considered their area of expertise, workforce experience, and/or the industries top-notch organizations. I didn't care about any of that. I had been in a rat maze for far too long. I wanted to create something better.
Instead of leaping to a competitor, I totally recreated my professional life. I went from a large company to a small one. I went from an office filled with politics to working from home. I went from compliance management to people empowerment. It took me an entire year of soul searching to develop my path. It was the best (and worst) year of my life.
I'm The Captain Now!
The best career move I ever made was to stop waiting for others to motivate me. I was not a malcontent (in fact the opposite). I learned to listen to people and accept their guidance. I learned to insert myself into situations through my own merit. I learned that the only test I needed to pass on a daily basis was the look in the mirror.
The story of organizational failure that I experienced in my life is not uncommon. Most companies do not manage their employees as well as they should. Sad!
People in caps and gowns are thirsty for advice. Companies are not as accepting. The world of work is advancing from dictatorships to bottoms up collectives; the companies that do not comply will fall behind.
Culture and appreciation have metrically defensible relevance. There are case studies to prove that the best companies promote from within. It is also a matter of common sense.
My advice to 22 and 72 year olds: Analyze Your Actions!
Are you working to advance only yourself?
Are you acting out of character to get ahead?
Are you afraid to try for fear of being exposed?
Are you pretending to know what you do not?
Only you know the answers to these questions. It is unlikely that anyone will ask them of you.
I can assure you this:
Those who have wronged others in their climb to success retire in misery.
Why would you want to spend your life regretting your inability to live the life you deserve?
Don't Forget to Remember!