Think of a time when there was a significant change in your work situation.
Describe the following:
- What was your job at the time of the change?
- What changed or shifted in your work environment or in your life?
- How did you respond to the change? What did you think? How did you feel?
- What did the change mean for you in terms of your work? Were there new demands on you?
- What happened? Did you adapt? Try to change the situation? Leave?
- How successful were you? Did you get the results you wanted?
- What lessons did you learn?
- May we use your story in our book or in our resource guides if appropriate?
John’s Story (Mid-fifties executive; took VP position and struggled with new demands, new team, and new company) John recently accepted a new position in a new company. At 56, the position was really attractive: it had a vice-president level title, significant responsibility, and the pay was great. Plus, he would have four weeks of vacation… each year. The original job description contained many responsibilities that John had done in previous jobs, and during the interview process John felt confident that he would be successful. Within two months of moving into his new role, John knew something was wrong. He did not seem to be getting the results desired for his unit, his team was not coming together, and others in the organization were expressing disappointment with his and his team’s performance. In short, a lot was going wrong. After a heart-to-heart conversation with his boss, John realized that he had assumed his experience and skill set was adequate for this new role. He came to realize, however, that he needed to develop many more advanced leadership skills for this new demanding role. He also needed to learn the culture of his new company and the styles of the people that worked there. With the help of his boss, he began his personal leadership development along with that of his staff. John had never worked harder in his life to navigate this transition. He wanted to re-position himself as a reliable executive for his unit. He worked with his team to set a vision and strategic plan, he laid out monthly implementation priorities, he monitored results to ensure his team was reaching set goals, he made adjustments as needed to achieve the desired outcomes for the company, and he helped his team with their skill gaps. Slowly, the team started achieving results, but there were still some lingering doubts from others in the organization. While John was excited about the progress, he knew he needed to keep developing both his skills and his teams and to continue getting positive results to earn the trust of his boss and other executives. Read more “John’s Story”
Kathy was a full-time housewife dabbling in her art after a career at IBM. She was a college graduate with a major in art design. In 2000, at the age of 42, her husband had a cerebral hemorrhage. He could not work, and Kathy became the sole money earner through her art. She redesigned herself… and has become a professional artist, taking students to Cuba, Italy, France, and various places in the US. She teaches as Kennesaw State University and Chastain Park and has her own studio. Kathy and her husband live downtown in a 1500 sq ft condo compared to the 6000 sq. ft. house they had in the suburbs. She has an international reputation, successfully sells on ETSY, and does workshops all over. She adapted to a significant life change and made it work. Read more “Kathy’s Story”
The Entrepreneur-Founder’s Story
Noam Wasserman studied hundreds of entrepreneurs and found “that by the time the ventures were three years old, 50% of founders were no longer the CEO; in year four, only 40% were still in the corner office; and fewer than 25% led their companies’ initial public offerings. He also found that founders don’t let go… easily. Four out of five entrepreneurs are forced to step down from the CEO’s post. Most are shocked when investors insist that they relinquish control, and they’re pushed out of office in ways they don’t like and well before they want to abdicate. Founders are usually convinced that only they can lead their start-ups to success. At the start, the enterprise is only an idea in the mind of its founder, who possesses all the insights about the opportunity; about the innovative product, service, or business model that will capitalize on that opportunity; and about who the potential customers are. The founder hires people to build the business according to that vision and develops close relationships with those first employees. The founder creates the organizational culture, which is an extension of his or her style, personality, and preferences. From the get-go, employees, customers, and business partners identify start-ups with their founders, who take great pride in their founder-cum-CEO status. But, as the company grows and matures, the organization has to become more structured, and the CEO has to create formal processes and policies, develop specialized roles, and relinquish managerial control over others. The dramatic change in the organizational environment and the requisite broadening of the skills that the CEO needs at this stage stretches most founders’ abilities beyond their limits.” It also causes changes in the work patterns of all others remaining in the new organization who have to work with the new CEO and new culture that is created. Read more “The Entrepreneur-Founder’s Story”
The sun was starting to set, and shadows were growing across her office. As Barbara sat there surrounded by boxes, she let out a huge sigh. She had spent the last few days going through everything in her office. Barbara thought to herself – I can’t believe this is my last day. She had one… big box on either side of her desk. One labeled SAVE and the other TOSS. As she stared into the box labeled SAVE, her eyes were drawn to two letters – one was an award she received early in her career as employee of the year and the second was the letter appointing her to her current role as Vice President of Sales. After 27 years with the firm, Barbara sadly thought, my career was not supposed to end this way. She started right after she graduated from college, and Barbara knew that she was one of a rare few people who had an entire career at one company. She and her friends often talked about that – Barbara was proud of her loyalty and loved her work and her company. And, she had performed well and gradually moved up the organizational chart. Over a year ago, the company had to dramatically alter its business strategy to be competitive in a fierce market that had changed with the entry of lower cost/lower coverage firms. Her boss asked Barbara to focus her time and energy on developing new markets and increasing sales substantially, leading her team to do the same. Barbara took this on as she always had. She called team meetings, told her team that it had to find new customers and increase its sales volume, and gave them suggestions that had worked before. She increased the time and effort she spent to find more customers in the markets in which she had previously worked, getting customer referrals, increasing the frequency of ads and commercials in her territory. She even had team members stage dinners at known restaurants and invited residents to her previously profitable districts to attend to discuss future financial needs and possible solutions. This work increased both customers and sales but not by the amount that her boss thought necessary. He diligently provided her feedback during the last year, giving her suggestions of new markets that she may try to penetrate and general products that may be appealing. Barbara tried to do this but found it to be challenging. The new markets were much different from the one in which she had worked. She and most of her team didn’t know which products were needed in these younger, less wealthy markets and how to reach them with advertising and mailed brochures. Two younger members in the team did have success, but Barbara thought that was because they were about the same age as the people in the new markets. After a year of trying and not significantly improving her unit’s performance, it became clear to both Barbara and her boss that she was not able to meet the new expectations. They discussed options that she could take, including taking a lower level position or moving to another city that had markets closer to those in which she had succeeded. Both of these seemed to her to mean public defeat, which wasn’t how she wanted to end her career. Instead, she decided to retire. She and her husband had enough assets to continue living as they had, and her two kids were working in their city. However, even now as she sat in the shadows of her office with her boxes almost packed, Barbara thought about the past year. Could she have done something differently so she could have succeeded under the new demands? Should she have taken a different position within the firm? As she closed the top of the SAVE box, she wished more than anything that she could have ended her career feeling successful. Read more “Barbara’s Story”
After working in various positions for ten years in the retail industry in the Northeast, Dan was excited that he had landed the hot job as Director of Customer Relations for a large, major national brand company in the Mid-west. Dan thought to himself- I’ve got this! At 32, he was excited for this big… opportunity in his career. Dan worked hard from the start to make sure that everyone who was in his unit understood the results that he wanted. The company had a policy of a first-quarter performance review for each new employee. Dan was shocked when his boss started his review by telling him that he gave Dan a “Needs Improvement” rating for his overall performance. Dan’s boss went on to talk about how employee satisfaction was directly related to customer loyalty and satisfaction. His boss started discussing Dan’s management of his unit and the impact on his employees. But, Dan was very irritated as soon as he heard “Needs Improvement” and really didn’t listen carefully after that. Starting the next day, Dan spent even more hours at the store and talked with each of his subordinates several times over the next few weeks about what he expected. Sometimes he was straightforward and harsh in these conversations. About six weeks after the initial performance review, Dan’s boss had another meeting with him and told Dan that the group’s performance had gotten worse with more customer complaints about service and the resignation of one of the members of Dan’s group. He handed Dan a letter that notified him that he was on performance review and discussed that the primary issue was that more customers seemed to be dissatisfied with their interactions with customer service and his team did not seem to be performing well. He also told Dan that he wanted Dan to think about his performance and come back in a few days to discuss what he planned for the future. Dan was worried and called a friend of his from a previous company with whom he had worked. During the conversation, the friend commented that companies differed regarding what was wanted from the customer relations department and that companies differed in culture. The one at which they both worked wanted efficiency in processing sales and returns, but other companies had other behaviors that were valued. Dan suddenly remembered the comments he had heard but not paid much attention to customer satisfaction and loyalty. He thought about those comments for a few hours and realized that he had focused on his former company’s goals but not those of his new company. Dan spent the next two days writing a series of different behaviors that he needed to take on that were directly in line with developing customer satisfaction and loyalty and building his team. These are what he discussed with his boss in their next meeting and what he made his priority after that. Read more “Dan’s Story”
Molly’s boss had recently given her some added responsibility with higher leadership expectations in the organization. In her mid-twenties, Molly was excited to have been given more responsibility, she was proud her boss saw her potential and she was enjoying her new role. Then her boss left for a new company. While Molly waited for… her boss to be named (she was not a candidate), she thought about what she should do while waiting for her boss to start. She came up with these alternatives: she could go back to her role before she was given the new responsibilities and wait to see what the new boss told her to do she could join others in her work group who were worrying about getting a new boss and how the new situation would go she could keep performing her most recent daily activities and trying to do those well, or she could use this opportunity to take on some of the activities that her former boss and new boss would do and help her work group who were operating without clear direction. As you might guess, she chose the last alternative and became a positive leader for the organization during a time of transition, which greatly helped her future career. Read more “Molly’s Story”