Grandma’s Advice for All of Us- Mothers Day 2017

I once listened to an EntreLeadership podcast  interview with Ken Blanchard, author of The One Minute Manager, and about 50 other books.  I have always admired Ken’s ability to offer wisdom in a simple, succinct manner.  He told a story that I would like to retell for you (with some embellishment).

There once was a boy who loved his grandmother, but lived far away from her.  They had a very special relationship.  When he would visit, they spent most of their time making and eating home-made cookies, doing crossword puzzles together, watching game shows on the TV, and playing board games.

Grandma’s favorite board game was monopoly.  She taught the boy how to play when he was about seven.  The grandmother was a very sweet and loving woman, but when she played monopoly she turned into Donald Trump!  She was ruthless and she never lost!   One summer, when the boy was 10, Grandma told him if he ever beat her at a game of monopoly, she would give him a great treasure she had acquired from her father.  The boy asked what it was, but she would not tell him.

So he went home with his imagination running wild.  He asked his dad about it.  After all, Grandma was his mom.  His father said he remembered getting the same offer, but he never beat her, so he never got the treasure.  What secret treasure could Grandma be holding on to for generations?  There was only one way to find out!

The boy started playing monopoly at every opportunity.  He played with his parents, friends, and classmates after school.  He downloaded the monopoly app on his phone.  He was so obsessed his parents had to threaten to take away his phone if he did not do his homework and chores first.  Over the next few months he played hundreds of monopoly games, exploring new strategies, reading blogs on the game, and he started winning.  In fact, by Halloween, he rarely lost!

That year Thanksgiving was held at the boy’s house, and Grandma came.  She arrived Wednesday evening and had barely got settled into her room when the boy, monopoly game in hand, appeared and asked her to play.  With a wry smile the Grandma asked, “Are you sure?  I would not want to ruin your Thanksgiving!”  “I’m sure,” the boy answered with a quiet confidence that impressed the grandmother.  “O.K. then.  Let’s get started!” Grandma’s answered.

They set up the game in the dining room.  It was about 7:00.  As the game went on, family members started stopping by the game to watch, and none of them left.  By 10:00, the room held 12 spectators.  Team Grandma, and Team Grandson cheered and jeered as their player went to jail, landed on free parking, acquired a monopoly, mortgaged properties on the brink of ruin, then bounced back!  By midnight, the whole household was spent, and so was Grandma.  All her properties were mortgaged, and as she rolled the dice she saw her next stop was Boardwalk; owned by her grandson, and on it, a bright red hotel!

She conceded the game and congratulated the boy!  She told him it was the first time she had lost a monopoly game since she was ten years old, when she beat her father for the first time.  All the spectators offered their congratulations and condolences and headed for their beds, leaving the two players alone with the game.

The boy perused the board, surveying all his property and his enormous pile of cash.  He could not stop smiling.  The Grandma smiled herself.  She took his hands in hers, looked him straight in the eyes, and said, “Are you ready for the treasure I promised you?”  “You mean you are going to give it to me right now?” he asked.  “Absolutely!” she said.  ‘I always keep my promises.  Help me put the game away.”

So they put away the game in about 2 minutes.  The houses, hotels, property cards and cash all went back in their rightful places.  “There you have it!” Grandma announced.  “What?” the boy replied.  “Why, your treasure of course,” she answered.  The boy looked at her, uncomprehending.

Again, the Grandma took his hands in hers, looked him in the eye and said, “The treasure I promised you is this bit of wisdom from my father.  At the end of the game, and at the end of your life, it all goes back in the box.  All the things you have acquired will be put back into play for the next players.  All that really matters is who you have loved, and who loves you.”

At first, the boy was disappointed that there was not some secret treasure box filled with gold, but he looked at his grandma, saw the love and tears in her eyes, and gave her a huge hug.  “Thank you so much for loving me!” he said, then he turned to the table and put the lid on the game.

Rip Van Winkle- 2015

Imagine the well-known tale of Rip Van Winkle revisited this New Year.  The protagonist of our story, Rip, having gone on a weekend excursion into the Catskills as part of a team building exercise for the hospital leadership team he had just been promoted into six months earlier from his Radiology Technologist position, decides to take a nap after the team finishes 4 hours on the ropes course.  It is Spring, 1995.

WAKE-UP CALL

He awakens in his well-appointed cabin to find it covered in dust and cobwebs.  He stumbles out of bed and out of the cabin to find the entire property abandoned and in disrepair.  Confused he eventually hikes out to the main road and eventually flags down a car with a very nice young couple and asks for a ride back to the city.

During the course of the ride, Rip cannot help but notice the technology in this car is simply remarkable!  There is a car phone that plays through the radio, and the dashboard looks like something out of a Star Trek, Next Generation episode.  There is a computerized Navigation system displayed on the dashboard that the couple accessed and manipulated by voice commands to input Rips home address.  He expressed his awe at these devices and the couple laughed at him as if he was joking.

As they travelled the wife pulled out an 8 x 11 device that looked like a laptop, but had no keyboard and started watching a TV news program on FOX news.  Rip saw no cords, no antennas, and was so intrigued that he leaned forward from the backseat and started watching and was completely confused as the broadcasters were discussing next steps that President Obama would be pushing for to assure that “Obamacare” would not be undone by the new Republican controlled Congress and Senate!  President who?  Obama what?

Over the course of the next two hours he sat silent and mystified as he continued to watch news story after news story that made sense only by matching it with the date at the bottom of the TV screen.  April 1, 2015.  He did not know how it was possible, but either he was going mad, was currently dreaming and unable to wake himself, or he had slept away 20 years of his life?  He thought about opening discussion with the couple, but thought better of it realizing that people do not react well to having mad men in the backseat of their cars.

You can imagine the rest of the story.  The couple dropped Rip off outside his home in the suburbs of the city, and he found the house and surrounding neighborhood to be 20 years older.  Not surprisingly, his family no longer resided at the location.  He walked a couple of miles to the local library, which was still there.  After an hour or so of coaching from a young, pleasant librarian on how to research using Google, Rip sat mesmerized as he, in 3 short hours, was able to find out almost everything that had happened to his wife, son and daughter over the last 20 years.  He wept as he read of his wife’s fatal car crash 8 years earlier, then again when he found his now 32-year-old daughter’s wedding notice two years later, and his son’s, now 30, licensure as a Medical Doctor in Radiology.

15 MINUTES OF FAME

The next few months were nothing short of fantastic.  Reuniting with his son and daughter, DNA testing, and cellular analysis confirming that Rip was who he said he was, and that his body had somehow escaped aging over the last twenty years.  Speculations ranging from alien abductions, to stasis, to wormhole time travel, to cloning all were debated on CNN and Fox News!  Rip declined the Reality series, Biography and Lifetime movie offers that would have made him a very rich man.

Within a couple of years, Rip’s life settled into a new normal, working again as a Radiology tech.  Digital X-ray was not that difficult to learn, and he really had no interest in 360 slice CT’s, 3T MRI’s, 3D Hybrid OR Angiography Suites that had become the rage in his chosen career field.  People still broke wrists and needed x-rays.  He still had meaningful work.

Over time he was able to establish a relationship with his children, and later grandchildren and that brought him joy to offset the sorrow of the loss of his beloved wife and his former life.  All in all, he considered himself blessed for the strange life he had been appointed to live.

MORAL OF THE STORY

The thought occurred to Rip one day, that many of his peers went through their lives as asleep as he was.  Missing the important time with family as their kids grew up, some losing spouses as well from death or divorce.  At least he had a wake-up call that allowed him to change the rest of his life around what was truly important.

 

Leaders: At Which Stage are You?

I know a wise leader who recently shared about three stages of life that everyone goes through roughly corresponding with benchmark age groups of 1-25, 26-50, and over 50.  As I reflected about these stages later, it occurred to me that the same stages, and lessons for each, also applied to people who aspire to leadership.

Setting the Stage: Ages 1-25

This is the preparation stage.  All the remaining stages depend on getting this one right.  For leaders, it means acquiring the base skills and competencies you will need to perform.  It may include, but not be limited to schooling, internships, selecting/ruling out fields of study and career tracks, cultivating relationships that will help you be the best person possible, and avoiding some that may lead you down rabbit trails away from your goals.  It is a stage for dreaming, exploring, and ultimately choosing.  Wise choices may propel you into the next stage, foolish ones may delay or completely derail you.  The choice is yours and yours alone.  There are no victims in the Leadership track!  If you want to play the victim, pick another line!

 Striving for Success: Ages 26-50

This is the proficiency stage.  You laid a great foundation by working hard and making great choices.  You know what you want to do and now you are beginning to realize that if you want to succeed, the real work has just begun!  The goals you set to leave the preparatory phase and launch into the “real world” looked like a finish line right up until you crossed it.  Now the realization is dawning on you.  All that was just the pre-season!  The real season has begun and all the scrubs are gone.  You are now on the field with the A players who are older, wiser, and more experienced.  But you are prepared and you have something many of them have lost.  You have passion, drive, and “the eye of the tiger!”  You have youth, energy and fresh eyes!  Use them, but find ways to work with others, assisting them and complementing their skills and wisdom with your drive and passion rather than challenging them at every opportunity.

After a number of years, you will be the wise one who has led and succeeded.  You will be the one looking at the new guys coming in as idealists and inexperienced.  You will be the one they might offend with their new way of looking at things that dismisses your tried and true approaches.  When you get there and find yourself reaching out to one of those newbies with wisdom and advice on how she might position her idea in a way to be heard by leadership, you may find your success growing exponentially.  You will leverage the passion and energy of the young and temper it with the real world wisdom you have acquired.  When you get to that place you may find yourself on the threshold of the third stage of leadership.

Sustaining Significance: Age 50 and over

Leaders who get here face a choice between two paths.  They might choose the path of pleasure.  These people choose to only sit back, relax, and remember… They take their hard-earned savings and live out their lives in comfort.  There is not necessarily anything wrong with that, and if someone chooses that option, I will not judge them or be mad at them.  It may be the right path for them.

Others will choose another path.  I call it the path of principle.  People who choose this path believe in a higher calling.  They see the wealth they have accumulated as a tool to leave a legacy.  Some may give large portions away.  Others may use it to fund their life allowing them to be free to serve any where, doing anything they feel called to do, whether or not they ever get paid for that work.  All of them will likely reach back behind them and help others progress through these leadership stages.  They understand that the only real significance is that which out lives them.  Sustained significance comes from preparing the generations behind to face the challenges ahead.

Where do you find yourself?  Do you need a hand up to reach the next level?  How about those behind you?  Who can you help reach the next stage?

Any Advice for the New Guy?

There he is.  The guy in that new office down the hall.  He has that look.  You know, the one that says “where am I, how did I get here, and how do I get where I am really supposed to be?”  Looking at signage, then his watch, leaning in one direction, then the next, finally picking a hall though you can tell he has no clue if he has chosen correctly.

As many of you are aware, I recently changed jobs.  I am that guy.  Although this position is in the same industry I have worked in my entire 28 year career, it is a different environment from any other organization of which I have been a part.  The organization is larger, the campus has been around for a century and the current layout has resulted more from necessity and availability than from planning.  Way finding is not the only issue for which I find myself on the steep slope of the learning curve.

I am two months in and I am currently up to 14 different information systems I must learn to fulfill my job duties.  My new employer’s culture of accountability for managers and directors, with visibility of results, is like I have never seen in my career.  I love that!  However, the new guy that is still learning those information systems to do his job will not always achieve expected results, nor able to document them if he is!

When I was about one month in, I pulled out my consulting hat and had a conversation with myself as the new guy.  Here are the main points of that conversation in case you are the new guy, or you run into one in the hall looking lost!

Remember the serenity prayer

Concentrate on the things you can control, and back burner the things you cannot.  Prioritize among the things you can control with the limited knowledge you have to the best of your ability, and with advice from people you are learning to trust in the organization.  That leads to the second point.

Relationships are the key

Make sure that the bulk of your time is going toward cultivating relationships with the people who hold the keys to success.  The most obvious is your one-up leader.  Make sure he understands the steep curve you are climbing through and that you will not get everything on the list done at first so he can help you prioritize.  Having said that, get to know the other people who will make or break you; staff that work for you, support staff in IT and Finance, peers in other departments that can show you the ropes.  Invest in those relationships.  Find ways to be supportive of them, show your appreciation for the help they have given, and never take them for granted.

Right decisions depend upon accurate information

Experience is a two-edged sword.  It can be very beneficial, but it can also lead to supposition that may or may not apply to a new environment.  Make sure you have the facts before you get to far down a pathway toward a strategy that may or may not apply in your new organization.  This is especially true if that new organization is vastly different from the ones you have experience working in.  Listen and learn first, then when you act, you will be much more likely to have the desired result.  It is OK to go slow.

So, how long has it been since you were the new guy or gal?  What lessons would you impart to the next newbie?  What do you wish someone would have told you?

Type A Leaders: When Should You Cut Yourself Some Slack?

OK.  I confess.  I am a hard-driving, disciplined, goal oriented “Type A” personality.  I set goals with timeframes and I knock them down consistently.  This approach has worked well for me in my career, personal development, personal finances, etc. I advocate these attributes for others who want to be successful.  It is the difference between being a dreamer or a doer, a planner versus an achiever, a what-iffer and a go-getter.

Having said that, a successful life is a balanced life.  I am going through a job change and I am finding that I am not knocking down some of my daily and weekly goals as consistently as I would like.  If you are a Type A, you probably know what I have been doing to myself during this period… That’s right, beating myself up!  Well today that is stopping!  I have come to the conclusion that there are times that it is ABSOLUTELY RIGHT to cut yourself some slack.  Here are a few:

When you have to re-prioritize

A plan is important, but it has to be subject to change.  New events and challenges will require even the most disciplined and fore-sighted to adjust and course correct from time to time.  As long as those corrections are taking you around the obstacles and closer to your overall goals they are good things!  Don’t get discouraged!

When it’s beyond your control

In the movie Dangerous Liaisons, John Malkovich’s character, one of the most despicable personas ever created on film, repeated a line over and over when he was called upon to show even an ounce of decency or morality… “It is beyond my control.”

In the context of that movie, it was a false statement, but in many of the situations we face in life, we simply cannot execute on every plan because of things that really are “beyond our control.”  Sickness, natural disasters, economic meltdowns, are just a few of the things that fall into this category.  If you have been hit by this type of life events, give yourself some grace while you figure out a new plan.  Many have heeded hidden messages in these trials to set new courses for even greater personal and/or professional success.  Look for the lesson that might be hidden in the pain.

When it is adversely affecting your family

In my opinion, nothing is more important than doing the right thing for my family.  Sometimes my family has made decisions to sacrifice in the short-term in order to win in the long-term and we have benefitted greatly.  If, however, I am consistently sacrificing family time, energy and connectedness to further career goals… That is not true success and something else has to give.

When the only person who cares is you!

Type A’s.  Have you ever struggled with a decision to back off a goal because you do not want to disappoint a colleague, a superior, a family member, etc, only to find when you made the decision, that you were the only one that noticed?  Being disciplined in self-imposed goals and deadlines is important, but when you have to let one go for the sake of demands from others occasionally, don’t beat yourself up about it!  In fact you might want to pick up a mantra of another movie character; Bill Murray’s camp counselor from the movie Meatballs; … “It just doesn’t matter, It just doesn’t matter, it just doesn’t matter!”  Sometimes it doesn’t!

There you have my list of when it is OK to cut yourself some slack.

What’s on your list?

Our Best Work is not Good Enough, or Is It?

I am transitioning jobs and in the process I am packing my personal things from my current office to go to my future office.  I have been a Healthcare Professional for 28 years and my office is filled with many things that remind me of past achievements.  Two college diplomas, awards from professional organizations and community groups, special mementos from previous teams I have had the privilege of leading, and of course pictures of my family which is at the core of my meaning and purpose in life.

My most prized possession, however, is a piece of art work that I have proudly displayed in my office for years.  It is a priceless sculpture that I would never give up.  It is about the size of a baseball, and somewhat resembles a cat’s head.  The head is painted red, and the eyes, ears, and mouth a sky blue.  It was a gift, I believe for a father’s day past, from my younger son.

I think most people who would look at it would be less than impressed.  To the eyes of others it might even be called UGLY, but not to me.  When I look at that piece, I see something that was painstakingly created out of a desire to give me a gift that would give me pleasure.  It has done just that, and will continue to do so until the day I die.  It will always have a prominent place in my work space, and I will proudly tell the story of the piece to anyone who has the courage to ask about it.

One day, at the end of our lives, we will look back and see the work we have done from an eternal perspective.  We might, for an instant, think that what we have done is just not good enough,  We may look critically at our naivety, the flaws in our composition, even our complete lack of talent!  We might be tempted to be ashamed of all we could have done but did not due to our lack of diligence.  We might…

On the other hand we may see the work of our lives through the eyes of a loving heavenly father who knows what it is like to be human, tempted, tried, and defeated.  From his eyes our life’s work will be a thing of beauty, a testimony to the heart of a loving child who tried his best to show his Daddy how much he loved him.

Our lives are not perfect.  Sometimes they might look flat-out UGLY!  But the love of the father will look beyond the work to the heart of the one who produced it.  If we keep our heart right, the love of the father will be lavished upon us, now and in eternity.

 

3R’s of Success for Behavioural Interviews

“Behavioural Interviewing” is all the rage.  In this post, I will answer two questions:  What is a Behavioural Interview, and how can you succeed in this type of process?

Believers in Behavioural Interviewing have one main assumption, past behaviour will predict future performance.  The questions are designed to elicit responses from the candidate about how he or she behaved in specific job situations in the past.  The questions are usually scripted in advance to maximize interviewers’, often in panel settings, chances of hearing not only about the candidate’s accomplishments, but also his/her struggles, shortcomings, attitude toward their teams, leadership style, etc.

Gone are the questions like, “What is your management philosophy?” and “What is your greatest strength?”  Instead you will hear things like, “Give me an example of a time you reached a goal, and how you did it?”, or “Have you ever had to implement a policy with which you disagreed?  What did you do about it?”  These are questions designed to create stress and limit the candidate’s ability to give trite, pat, practiced answers.  It is really tough to be on the receiving end of this process.  When I am interviewing candidates who I can tell have not prepared for this type of interview, I almost feel sorry for them.  So how can you prepare for this style of interview?

Here are the three basic tenants to succeed in a Behavioural Interview.  Of course, I have packaged them into 3 R’s!

Be Ready

Readiness comes in two steps.

First, know your audience.  If possible, get a list of all the people you expect to be interviewing you.  If you cannot get actual names, try to get titles.  Next, start googling and hitting professional social media sites where your interviewers might belong. Linked-in is a wealth of information these days.  Look for connections in career history, education, places your interviewers have lived. Make mental notes and try to work them into your conversations on interview day.  Most people will be flattered that you read their most recent publication, or remembered where they went to school, or recognized they worked with a former colleague of yours a couple of jobs prior.

Next, know your story, and know how to get it out amidst the difficult context of these questions.  If you google, you will find many web sites that will give you the top 10 or top 50 Behavioural Interview questions.  I HIGHLY recommend candidates take the time to answer these questions.  It will help to pull forward those moments that have made you successful, and for which you can be proud.  It will also unearth the memories of the times you made mistakes, and hopefully learned from them.  If you take time to work through 50-100 of these, you will know your story well enough to tell it fluidly through the behavioural interview format.  If you do not, you will likely spend your time sweating through pregnant pauses, ums, and uhs.  These are not your grandpa’s interview questions.

Be Real

While you should prepare, make sure that you are authentic.  Do not prepare answers you think people want to hear, prepare answers that reflect who you are, what you believe, and how you lead.  Most of all, let them see your personality.  Hopefully you are seeking a role you are passionate about.  Let that passion show.

Be Reciprocal

By reciprocal I mean you should put yourself in the shoes of the interviewer.  Think about what his/her role is and what he/she hopes to see from the person that will be hired for the opening.  As the questions allow, draw upon your experiences to show them you are the person that can deliver what it is they want.

My final piece of advice is to follow all the basics you have learned about interviewing before.  Dress for the job you want. Have copies of your resume and references available.  Arrive 5-10 minutes early.  Give them a firm handshake, and look them in the eye.  If you struggle with any of these basics, practice in front of a mirror, on video, with a friend, spouse or coach.  It will help you correct idiosyncrasies and become more confident.

Oh yeah…  One more thing.  Be likable.  People hire people they like!

 

I-85 University (Old Post, New Title)

I live in Atlanta Georgia.  I chased my wife down here from Ohio in 1985 and she caught me!  There are so many things I love about Atlanta.  The weather is usually sunny and warm, but we still have seasons.  I can get to the mountains in 2 hours and the beach in four.  We have four star restaurants and five star hotels for weekend get-a-ways.  We have travelling Broadway shows, and the Symphony.  Of course, we cannot forget the Atlanta sports teams…uh, well, I already have my favorite sports teams that are not going to change anyway, so that sad situation does not matter to me! GO BUCKS, GO SKINS!

All of these things are big pluses, but what I really love about Atlanta is the traffic.  Our traffic is infamous.  It might not be quite as notorious as Los Angeles or New York City but it is close, and deservedly so.  It is great!  I commute 42 miles to work every day, one way!  About 35 miles of that commute is on I-85.  The average commute time for me each day is about 2:15.  Isn’t that enviable?  Can’t you see why I am so elated to live and work where I do?

No?

Well, let me explain further.  I graduated with my MBA in 1993.  My career has been extremely rewarding, and I have been learning a lot on the job from the School of Hard Knocks since 1993.  I also stay well read in my various healthcare arenas for which I have provided administrative support, but quite honestly I was beginning to get in a rut.  Then in 2007 I started this wonderful commute.

OK, honestly, I have not always found it wonderful.  In fact, it had really started wearing me down.  So three years ago, I bought a red, Pontiac G6, hard top convertible.  It is a sweet ride!  Especially on days like today: sunny and 70, top down, cruisin music blaring…  Driving it down I-85 helped some, but I found that it is not all that comfortable to ride with the top down in the Atlanta summer, 95 degree heat, nor in the winter 40’s and 50’s either.  So once again, the drive was becoming intolerable.

Then, I discovered Podcasts.

I was an early adopter of an IPOD.  I have had one for about 12 years, and enjoy having my rather unconventional choice of music at my disposal.  One has a hard time finding a radio station that plays head banger Christian Rock!  An IPOD allowed me to have over 4000 songs of my favorite music from Rez Band, Petra, Stryper, Audio Adrenaline, Skillet, Thousand Foot Krutch, Sweet Comfort Band, Servant, Keaggy…  Sorry, I digress!

Then, I discovered Podcasts, and I found myself doing something that I remember Zig Ziglar encouraging people to do years ago.  I turned my car into a university.  Every day now, I spend two and a half hours a day on I-85 University!  I have listened to great teaching on personal finance, business, entrepreneurship, christian living, leadership, career advancement… The list goes on!  It has helped me on so many levels that it has truly revolutionized my work, home, and even spiritual life.  It has help me to see that I need to be a more well rounded individual.  I have been reinvigorated to see the glass half-full, tap into my creative side, and do my very best to impact the world around me for good.

I am a very driven guy.  I am proud of what my teams have conquered in the workplace, and I am so proud of my boys.  But in all my busyness with career, family, and community service, I was really running on fumes.  I was not taking time to fill my tank with new insights, knowledge, or motivation.  I was focused on short-term and long-term goals, and had been checking them off, but was not fulfilled.  Sounds like every other guy approaching 50, right?  Hence the red convertible!

The commute to my current employer coupled with my IPOD has enabled me to see beyond my original goals, and start to develop a game plan to take me farther and higher than I had ever dared to dream before.  If I can only figure out how to incorporate an exercise regime into the cockpit of the G6, I will rule the world…

Alas, my IPOD is not magic after all!

The moral of my IPOD Love Story is: never stop learning and expanding your horizons.  Take some time each week for reflection and learning.  If you have a commute, consider podcasts and audio books.  If not, read books, or blogs.  Get motivational videos on your IPAD or laptop and watch them at lunch, whatever it takes.  Do not be a one trick pony.  Today’s job market requires people who cannot only adapt to change, but to be in a position to lead through change, or even make the change.  If you are reading this blog, you are highly likely to be the type of person who can step up and make your work place, home place, and dare I say, even the world, a better place!

If nothing else, maybe you could write a blog to encourage people just like you!  (:

Career Decision Making 101: Five Questions To Ask Yourself

Have you ever found yourself at a fork in the road when you least expected it?  You are travelling down the career path you identified, and out of nowhere you have to decide… do I turn left, or do I turn right?  How do you make that decision?  It is an exercise worth discussing as these are the decisions that can often define a career, a life, and even a legacy.

I believe the process is best handled by asking some defining questions.

Where do I want to go?  Imagine yourself on a hike in the woods and you come to an unmarked fork.  What do you do?  If you are an experienced hiker you will pull out your compass and your map (or your GPS App).  You will look back on where you have been and look where you want to go in order to determine where you are on the map.  Next, you will trace where the two paths lead, and which one will get you to your desired destination, then take it.  It is often the same with your career choices.  In order to make the correct decision you need to step back and see the whole picture, and really get perspective on which choice will lead you to where you want to go.  You can get caught up in the moment and just see the big salary increase, or incredible leap in titles, and forget to look at the implications on family, friends, or your overarching life mission if you just look at the fork in the road.

Which path will get me there sooner?  Sometimes on your journey it is hard to tell which path will get you where you want to go.  Imagine you reach the fork and you know you want to head north, but one path goes northeast, and the other goes northwest.  You cannot find the fork on your map, so it is not clear which path is likely to get to true north sooner.  Sometimes the secret is to clearly understand your destination.  Let’s say one path slopes downward, and the other is a steep incline.  Should you take the easy downhill route to get there faster?  Maybe…  But if you know your destination is on top of a mountain, you should probably take the ascending route, as it is likely going to get you to your goal more quickly.

What are the pros of each course? (forget the cons)  A wise friend taught me a method to simplify the decision making process at these forks.  I used to make out a pro’s and cons list for each option.  It tended to make things very complex.  I had four columns on a spreadsheet to deal with.  This friend pointed out that every con could be listed as a converse in the pro column of the other option.  Voila!  Now I only have 2 columns to help me sort out my thoughts.  Try it, it is very liberating.

What are the risks and rewards for each option?  Unlike pro’s and cons, risks and rewards do both need to be contemplated.  The reason is they are not all or nothing.  They, by nature, are weighted and need to be factored in to decisions using that weighting.

To give a simple example of this, let us contemplate a decision about a potential career move that would increase your salary by 50%.  That sounds like a no brainer, until you also recognize that the new opportunity carries a high risk that you will be unemployed within three years.  Now factor in that it is 75% likely you will be in a position to retire in 4 years if you stay where you are.  All of a sudden the math is not so cut and dried!

Juxtapose the scenario described above against the backdrop that your family hates its current lifestyle that would continue if you stay in your current posistion, but would love the lifestyle the new opportunity would afford.  Now take the same scenario and contemplate your family having the exact opposite sentiments!  Will that change your decision?  Such is the complexity of these types of decisions in the real world.  Still, asking the above questions will help you sort through your options, and give you a framework discuss them with people you trust to give you wise advice.

What does my family think is best?  Finally, big decisions need to be made together with those who will be impacted the most; your family.  When you reach consensus there, you can be confident you will have the support to thrive with whatever decision you make (even if you make the wrong one!)  Making unilateral decisions in these situations may lead to a successful career, but leave a legacy of failed relationships.  All decisions should be made in the light of protecting the relationships you value the most.  No one on their death bed says, “I wish I had spent more time at work.”

 

The World is YOUR Stage. Act II, Scene 1

There I was in the quarterly leadership meeting with 150 other leaders in my health system.  The speaker, talking about the challenge of labor force and leadership shortages, had us stand up in age groups:

Under 35 years old; my boss stood up, I did not.

35-45; the new Chief Medical Officer stood up, I did not.

45-55; I stood up.  I looked at my fellow group members.  Great leaders, lots of wisdom, men with gray hair and/or very little thereof.  I thought to myself…”It is official… I am one of the old guys.”

I turned 50 on my last birthday and I have had a lot of similar conversations with myself since that milestone.  I have been blessed in every every arena of life.  I have so much for which to be grateful.  Not far down the list is that I am engaged in IMPORTANT, MEANINGFUL WORK.

I have choices at this point in my life.  Like many of my contemporaries, I am in a position to embark on a second act career.  I could find something that is fulfilling, learn new skills, and pursue my passion.  After all, I have worked, and saved, and I owe it to myself to self actualize, right?

In my case, what all this introspection has done is reinforce how my vocation of leadership in healthcare is needed now more than ever.  My  self actualization has led me to re-awaken a passion within me to “be the change (I) want to see in the world.” as Ghandi emplored.  I am challenging myself to go outside my comfort zone, be an even better leader, and learn new skills.

In effect, I have engaged in my second act career, but chosen to do so on the same stage as my first 30 years!  I am thrilled that I have that opportunity!  I have not been booed off the stage yet, so I must be doing something correctly, right?  There may be an Act III in this play as well, but I am too busy learning my role and growing in my craft to think about that right now.

Here is a challenge to other successful leaders, healthcare or otherwise.

  • Will you continue growing in your craft, treating the applause you have worked so hard to earn as an encouragement for an encore, and not the curtain call?
  • Will you continue to step up and help society face our many challenges with your time-tested wisdom and strong effective leadership?
  • Will you consider that radical revolution may NOT be the answer to self fulfillment.  Instead, a real-time renovation inside your vocation might allow you to move forward without first backing-up.

I ran into a long-time colleague on Linked-In recently who told me she hopes her friends will tell her when it is time for her to hang it up.  I am here to tell her and others; if you can engage and rekindle your passion, this is exactly the time we need your leadership!