For those of us opportune to occupy a place of leadership, there is always a selection of our followers or team members that form what is sometimes called the ‘inner circle’. These people are closer to us. They influence our decisions; they are the first to know about everything within the group. They are the link between us and the rest of the team – the filter of information flow. They are the Lieutenant Generals. Among these lieutenant generals is that one person who steps into our shoes when we are not there. They take the decisions and make judgment calls on our behalf when we are not able to. We trust them and can count on them to make the best call. We have trained them to think for the organization/team and most times we train them to think almost exactly like we do. This person is the General.
Whether we make this decision consciously and logically or subconsciously and sentimentally, we always make them. In management, it is called succession planning and there are several frameworks suggesting the how it should be done. But that is not the purpose of this blog. The thing is, my most trusted General decided to step away from combat. Well, not combat as in the army, but combat all the same. She wanted to pursue a career path different from where she is, even if it meant taking a pay-cut and stepping down a rank or two. Her request stimulated a roller coaster of mixed feelings that I had not experienced in a very long time.
I was hurt.
She is abandoning a place by my side in combat.
I was impressed by her clarity and determination.
She knew what career path she wanted and was going after it, no matter what.
I was angry.
Did she stop to think about what her decision will do to the structure we have put in place? Did she realize I will have to put a lot of time to train someone else to take the place she was leaving? Did she consider how much extra work she was giving me to do?
The earlier she makes this decision, the better for her. She needs to put her career and future first.
I was worried.
I hope she is taking this decision for the right reasons. I had been feeling demotivated, tired and exhausted lately, could she also be feeling the same and taking such decision as a result?
This went on for two weeks. My emotions were further destabilized by a not so favorable decision taken by a potential client we have been chasing for some time and the borderline abandonment from my immediate boss. I was so overwhelmed I reached out for moral and emotional support outside the workplace.
What I learnt from the experience?
The higher you climb up the corporate ladder, the more difficult it is to make a career change. A change at such levels usually means stepping outside the corporate world altogether. I mean, do I have such luxury? Hmmm, that’s a consideration for another time and place. In succession planning, never bank on one person. Make sure you have a plan B to Z if possible. In training, keep the door open for whoever is willing. Interview your generals formally and informally. Observe them, that they excel in a particular role does not mean they are interested in it long term. Never to get too emotionally attached to the job and the people in it. That way, when they leave or request for changes, you won’t take it personal. Ask for help when you need it. Sometimes, stepping outside the box will reveal a perspective that will set the ball rolling towards a favorable solution.
In the end, it was a win-win solution.
My general got the change she was looking for. She still got the pay-cut but was also bumped up a rank with additional managerial responsibility. A team member moved into the inner circle and a lieutenant general was promoted to general.
And for me? Well, things are normalizing. I learnt valuable lessons and I may be able to take some me-time off work in the coming weeks. I guess, all is well that ends well.