A stellar seller arrives on the scene – they are the talk of the town. Crushing objectives, winning awards and getting accolades – and within 6 months they are either burnt out or gone.
A brilliant technical resource can answer every question presented by either a customer or co-worker. They are the go-to person – the smartest person in the room. Then, circumstances surrounding their role or division change… maybe they are faced with a sales quota where they weren’t before, or they are forced to play a different role on a team. Whatever it is, they flounder or they decide this is not a path they can continue on and they leave or they are eliminated.
For a litany of reasons, organizations change. They change to meet what they believe client demands are not only now but what they will be in the future. They respond to economic influences, to the changes in resources and parameters. Some organizations seem to change just for change’s sake even when things are working. As employees – and as sellers, leaders and difference-makers – we have two choices: we can either modify our approach and evolve or we can see our impact diminish to the point it means we change roles or companies – by our choice our theirs.
Mergers, acquisition, layoffs, modified role, reduced role, complete change in company or deparatment direction – all of these (and then some) can force a change. Often, these changes are going to come an inopportune times – when we’ve found a rhythm, perhaps when we think things are going well or we think we have a course laid out for ourselves en route to a targeted next role.
Here are the steps we must take to ensure our survival:
- Recalibrate and refocus. Limit your immediate reactions. Recall that when you embarked on the path you’re currently on, you entered into a “contract” – you agreed to the terms and conditions of the role as presented to you, and you committed to be the person you pledged to be on interview day. Now, the role has changed, but the expectation you’ll adjust has already been made for you. Changes and new requirements notwithstanding, and assuming you still have a role once the smoke clears, the question is whether or not you can adjust to the changes and commit longterm to the new path you’re on. Sometimes, the “refocus” is actually taking into consideration a job loss and the forced adjustment you make to your sails to plot how you’re going to get back on track. Whatever the circumstances, how you react publicly will be scrutinized – be sure you do not negatively comment or respond to these changes. Be respectful, learn everything you can about the new playing field, and respectfully examine how you can best proceed in the new protocol.
- Be patient, and focus on the moment, the day at a time. Managing through uncertain, ambiguous times is very challenging – it’s easy during those times to lose sight of the road we thought we were on or the goals we had in place prior to the shift. I’ve found wading through these murky times with a positive attitude and a choice to endure and to learn everything you can about the new scenario and the willingness to adapt will pay off. “This too shall pass.” All you can do is control what you can control, and while components of your role are changing all around you, change is inevitable… and even the new “changed” role will continue to be modified as well. Don’t develop too much of a love of any component of a role that can very easily take that component away. Enjoy the positive things while they last and don’t sweat the negative things because they will change as well. Managers will change (you’ll lose great leaders and your awful bosses will go away too), job responsibilities and metrics and quotas and products and solutions will all morph over time, and how you navigate uncertain waters and maintain professionalism will go a long way in determining your success.
- Take what you’ve learned and enjoyed forward with you. You may have absolutely loved a job you had – but it’s gone. Perhaps you can bring forward the learnings or the principles or processes that you liked doing or that garnered results and apply them in a new environment. Your mentor or favorite leader left the organization? Be happy for their new journey, but stay in touch – the trust you’ve developed can be a very valuable two-way experience no matter where your paths go from here. I’ve found a lot of solace in being able to look back at periods of my career where I felt a lot of reward and success and (1) realistically realizing I could not recreate that exact situation if I tried (nor would I necessarily want to exactly as it was – kind of like how we look back on bad breakups and only remember the good times) and (2) pulling forward the philosophies and process and practices into a new role, helping bring that blueprint of success to the present and really giving me a leg up in this proverbial new environment.
You can be a great seller, leader, employee, but you lose sight of your goals amidst significant changes in your environment and you allow the uncertainties to deter you. It’s actually quite common, and can happen to the absolute best of us. After any type of shakeup – like an earthquake – things move around, footing becomes unsure and we have to adapt and evolve to the new terrain. We have to face the aftermath. Some changes are quite minor and over time things can return to a semblance of status quo, but in today’s day and age of rapidly changing organizations and industries, the likelihood you’ll have to adapt is very high. How effectively you do it will determine where you’ll wind up, and you’ll often find that if you can endure some pain and uncertainty for a bit, you’ll come out in a desirable situation. Monotony beats misery, I always say, and all you really need is to get back into a groove you can dance to again.
You’ll also learn from mistakes; perhaps you reacted poorly to a company or departmental change in the past. You job-hopped or you were vocal dissent, and you paid for it. Endurance through the storm and the ability and willingness to pivot your approach is the greatest career attribute. More important than smarts and more important than skill.
You will be called upon to reinvent yourself numerous times in your career – to learn new processes, new technology, new products and services. Your target audience will change, as will everything around you from leadership to co-workers and even company logo. What cannot change is your tenacity and fire amidst each day. Sometimes it just means you need to readjust and apply these new principles; it can be awkward and a little painful at first, but provided you are dedicated to the cause and realize where the moves you make today can still lead you to your goals, it’s easier to stay focused on the endgame.