Now I write this post not as an apologist for crappy things that happen in your past. But not all moments in your career are wonderful. I try (ok, not in the moment and even sometimes many years later) to see what (if anything) can I learn. I know – I’m tired of making lemonade out of lemons too but the truth is I really have learned from many of them.
I once had a senior (can’t remember if he was a director or vp) leader once call me into his office after I had given my two weeks notice. Now keep in mind that I didn’t really interact much with this leader. I’ll spare you all the details but at one point he explained to me that I was trying to code as if I was building a Cadillac and all the client wanted (and paid for) was a chevy. I am not a car person but I still understood what he was trying to tell me in that moment. My response was that’s why I was going somewhere that wanted me to build quality software. And this continued back and forth until finally he said “You are making a huge mistake with your career.” To say this conversation was unnerving and intimidating would be an understatement.
This moment is when my narrative that I never wanted to be an executive started. That I wondered for years and years whether he would be right. Clearly, this had a huge negative impact on me.
But it also had a huge positive impact on how I lead. I like to believe that he didn’t intentional mean to do those things. I could see how he might be frustrated by the turnover. I could see how he might have felt like the company invested in me and I was not honoring that. I could see how he felt stressed and didn’t know how to proceed forward. Again, I’m not excusing it but it was a warning for me. That it was important on how I show up as a leader in moments similar to this. I’ve encouraged people to leave when things were not a fit. I’ve helped people prep for interviews elsewhere. I’ve given so many recommendations for current and past people. I choose to see people first and not what I need or don’t need in the organization. Simply, I don’t see it as a betrayal when people leave but as an opportunity…for them, for the company and even for me.
That crappy thing helped me learn who I didn’t want to be. And being able to learn from the past, helped me be who I am today.
What can you learn from the past?