Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, but it is about learning to dance in the rain! —Unknown
Clients often come to me when they see storms gathering at their place of work, or often, when they are already in a storm created by a variety of management, marketing, or business problems. As a result what they face is hard work, frustrating setbacks, uncertainty, and lack of appreciation for their tireless efforts. When they come to me the popular refrain is how do I get out of this place and what can I do next to protect my career.
My experience has been that in most of these cases these “storms” are created by previous bad management decisions that have resulted in untenable situations that foster customer dissatisfaction, supplier ire, and employee morale problems, let alone financial and performance problems for the company. So, regardless of how hopeless the situation is or may be, you must not run away from it, but seize it to put a shine on your résumé.
In the case of one client the company’s product was causing users at both ends—its service was used by both the buyers and their suppliers—to rebel against it and wreak havoc in the marketplace. The defection rates were astronomical, yet, the time to onboard a new customer took forever. Also, the confusion in dealing with common customer complaints was everlasting. He was fed up with the stress all of this was putting on him as a newly-installed product manager, so he decided to leave the company and find some other place with “better conditions.” But, since he had just started working there less than a few months back, this quick change would not have reflected well on him.
After he finished venting off his frustrations and telling me how untenable his situation was, I decided to take an opposite view and told him that despite his woes he must stay where he was until he had created a viable recovery plan in his own area of work and until he was able to show some results, before moving on. I explained to him that such “opportunities” to show one’s leadership were rare and if he could demonstrate how he turned things around in such a troubled company, even in his own area of work, he would be a very desirable employee for anyone in the market to go after. Such chaotic conditions are more common at companies than most realize. Besides, his company’s woes were well known in the industry, so any success in their mitigation would place him as highly prized recruit by the company’s competitors.
After he agreed to the plan we decided to change his work priorities, and, rather than the daily firefighting that was causing him the grief, we decided to create a recovery plan that allowed him to do the required firefighting, but by first placing priorities on his recovery plan. This recovery plan included a comprehensive change in many areas affected within his immediate span of work—starting with the onboarding of new customers, to dealing with defecting customers. Once the top brass jumped on this plan my client had a clear mandate to focus more on the recovery plan than to focus on the all-consuming daily firefighting, which he delegated to others in view of his newly sanctioned priorities.
Within about a month my client’s daily priorities changed and he felt more in control of his work, since most of the work he was then doing entailed executing the plan that was already approved by his bosses, others were then given the work that he was finding detestable and enervating. He was now doing the work that truly energized him, particularly after he started seeing positive results in its wake.
About six months after this initiative took root, things in his own area started to improve. Customers started returning his calls using more polite language in dealing with him and in describing the problems that were still showing up. Overall, my client felt encouraged by what he was able to produce as a result of this shift. Although the initiative had now taken a bigger reach across the company he was ready to move on by getting ready with a campaign that had a great résumé. Within a short few months he was able to land an executive job in the same industry, mostly stemming from his success.
If he had not faced this challenge and walked away in search of a new job his prospects of finding a “better” job would have been limited and he would not have built his brand that got him the next great job within a short period.
So, the next time you are tempted to run away from a storm and take shelter, think again! Confront the challenge and find out what you’re really made of!