Since yesterday’s blog post title was cliche (Windows of Opportunity), why not today’s?
Ten years ago I was the general manager of a small software and networking services company. My path there was interesting… I was an IT manager for a bigger company, and we acquired this little tiny software company, and then we acquired another tiny networking company. For various reasons, things weren’t working out. Looking back on it, the intentions and plan were great, but it was a perfect-storm environment where we didn’t have the right support, financing, leadership, talent, etc. to really make it work. What could have been a very cool, nationwide company, was a floundering, stressful mess.
I wasn’t qualified to do what I was doing, but neither were two others, who were about 20 years older than I was. What we were trying to pull off was tricky, and the board was much more of a heavy-handed “why isn’t this working” partner than a “let’s make this work, here are the right introductions” partner. They totally could have been the latter, but they were the wrong partners, really. Everyone was stressed, from the top to the bottom, and our customers were feeling it. Even though I wasn’t qualified, I was up to the challenge to learn, figure it out, put in the work, etc.
I remember when one of my key guys decided to leave the company. I was crushed. Not too long after that, another key guy decided to leave. I didn’t have very many key guys, and this was making a bad situation worse.
So there we were, ten years ago, and it was clear that changes were going to happen. I was not happy, and the stress was taking a toll on my physical well-being as well as my family relationships. I needed to get out, and my wife and I both talked about how to get out of that company, but I was a very loyal guy. I also had a steady paycheck and “benefits” (I use that word loosely). I found it hard to walk away from my team, and the vision I had been nurturing. We were on a good path, I thought.
And then, it happened. I didn’t have to wallow in the choice making anymore, because others made the choice for me. What happened to me was no different than what happened to hundreds of thousands of others. Politics. Bad chemistry. Someone spending time fighting for that job, regardless of who would be hurt. Regardless of what was best for the company. Regardless of anything sane. In the end, politics won out. Those who were easily swayed by a salesman who could sell ice to eskimos, as they say, were swayed.
I’ve learned that they have regretted, but have had to live with, that decision since then. That’s the bed they made though.
I was free. Weight was lifted, and my health was on a path to be restored. I was also scared to death. I had never been forced into a transition before. I had never been in a real job search before. I didn’t like not knowing where money would come from to pay my bills. We had bills to pay, and a baby on the way. Having feelings of fear and uncertainty and elation and freedom, all at the same time, was new and weird.
The interesting thing was that I knew this was coming. I knew what our financials were, I knew what we had in the pipeline, I knew where our products where, I knew where our customers were, and I even knew, to a small extent, how much politicking was going on (only later would I learn the extent of politicking that was really happening). But I knew enough, and I could “see the writing on the wall.” Like a big brick wall, with big, graffitied letters. The messages were clear.
BUT, I didn’t trust the messages. I didn’t trust my gut. I ignored the writing on the wall. I thought “that’s what happens to others, not people like me.”
Indeed, the writing was right. My gut was wrong.
And that’s why I’m writing this post, because I want to share a message with you: TRUST YOUR GUT.
I’m not saying be paranoid, but I’m saying to take in the information around you, read the writing on the wall, and trust your gut. Don’t think that you are above the horrible things that you don’t think will happen to you. Your gut might be wrong, but the more you fine tune this skill, and trust yourself, you’ll be more prepared for things that happen that are out of your control. But you will be prepared to handle those things by doing things that are in your control.
This is a key element of career management.