Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I'm Looking for a New Job!...

...And you're reading this because you thought I was serious.

A number of months ago, an EVP and member of the Executive Management Team emailed me to say he wanted to spend a few minutes chatting with me.  He and I had met, face to face, for the first time the week prior and I left a positive impression on him that he wanted to explore further.  In the spirit of full transparency, I allowed this meeting to stay visible in my work calendar in spite of the risk of my management chain seeing it and misunderstanding.

So, of course, my manager did see it and did misunderstand.  He called me up a week after the appointment was made (but still before the actual date of the meeting) and seemed distraught that I didn't trust him enough to tell him if I were dissatisfied with my role.  This was the inspiration for a previous blog entry where I contrasted the concept of happiness versus contentedness in one's role.  Another part of my discussion with my boss, that I did not describe in that blog entry, revolved around the activity itself.

Humpty Dumpty? Who's that?
During that part of the discussion, I compared my meeting with the EVP to a sales pipeline.  Was I looking for a new job?  Not necessarily, I said.  But just as a sales professional builds a pipeline that is 4 times their quota because they know that 75% of those potential deals will fail, one cannot take a sequential approach to something as strategic as looking for the next step in their career.  Instead, you have to be willing to entertain all things even if you're not explicitly looking to change jobs at that particular moment.

Or, as the cliché goes:  "don't put all your eggs in one basket."

Expanding this to a more general discussion, devising an effective strategy for anything is part marketing, part sales, and part operations.

Marketing.  Development of an effective strategy requires effective communication of that strategy.  And that starts by understanding what, exactly, it is you're trying to achieve.  For example, when building a public relations campaign, one of the first things you do is answer the questions:  who needs to know, who needs to be involved, who will be effective, and what is the take away for each of those three groups?  Answering these ensures that you thoroughly understand the topic to which your strategy applies and are able to articulate it well.

Sales.  The actual activity of articulating that message, however, is more sales than anything.  Unless you're in a position to simply dictate your expectations and press the proverbial "Go" button, you're going to have to convince others of the strength of your position.  This means that you need to not only understand the topic, but you must also understand the benefits of its execution and the risks of not doing so.  Measurable data points allow you to objectively communicate the latter part of that and also allow you to track it going forward if your strategy is adopted.

Operations.  Tracking its success is incredibly important, as you'll undoubtedly agree, because you will need to know as soon as possible if things don't work as expected and address the problem immediately.  This may require on the fly adjustments or a complete reversal of your position.  Since a compete reversal / rollback would result in a hit to your credibility, contingency plans must be developed and ready to execute should the need arise.

You're probably asking yourself, "is all of this really necessary?"  The answer is neither yes nor no, but instead depends on the importance of the goal itself and the cost of failure.  To put it another way, execution goes a long way but without the guidance to know where you're going you'll only get lost along the way.

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