Built to Last is a book about eighteen “visionary companies.” These admired companies were recognized for their ability to “prosper over long periods of time, through multiple product life cycles and multiple generations of active leaders.” The authors, James Collins and Jerry Porras, wrote, “Indeed, all of the visionary companies in our study faced setbacks and made mistakes at some point during their lives…Yet…visionary companies display a remarkable resiliency, and ability to bounce back from adversity.” Companies that failed to exhibit flexibility may have had short-term success, but lacked sustainability. I’m sure it’s not hard to forget the dot-com era.
My father worked for Sears Roebuck & Company for over twenty-five years. I grew up with the story of the stability of a company that thrived in the retail business for many years. I remember growing up with my Christmas holidays revolving around the Sears catalog. I remember conversations with my father about the history of the catalog and how it was here to stay. I also remember how long they took to adapt to using credit cards outside their Sears card or making decisions to sell other brands besides their own. Their inability to change with the times and their insistence on sticking with tradition cost them profits and many people lost their jobs as business models changed in the 1970s and 1980s in the retail space. Their business model was caught up in tradition and lacked the flexibility to adapt with the times. Sears has since adapted in many ways, but they are in a much more competitive retail environment with the likes of Walmart, Target, and now Amazon and other online retailers everywhere.
I personally have averaged about a year and a half per position within my own company. I always wondered if people really wanted me or if they just wanted me to move away. I have come to the realization that it was a little of both, depending on where I was in my maturity, my job knowledge, and my ability to help the business. In my constant changing of positions, I always found my adaptability to be one of my strengths.
As a child growing up, my family moved out of state on eight occasions. My ability to integrate myself into a new environment grew easier over time—first in school, and then professionally. When someone recommended The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins, I was instantly hooked on the idea of how methodical Watkins’s message was with respect to what needs to be accomplished when taking on a new role. According to Watkins, it is important to “promote yourself,” “accelerate your learning,” “secure early wins,” and many other key tenets. I realized that I was forced to transition so many times in my life that I had gotten used to living in a flexible manner, but probably not in the most efficient or effective way. I liked having the reference at my fingertips, so I pinned the book description up in my office, which contains a “roadmap for creating your 90-day acceleration plan.” I refer to it often when I need a clear plan of attack in a new role or a new assignment, which has been often. I have recommended this book to everyone I have known who was taking on a new job. The message in the book is clear as to how much a company and an individual can lose if the transition to a new job fails. The book emphasizes the acceleration needed to be nimble as you begin your new adventure.
It is sad but true that people come and go in any company. In smaller companies, there may be less movement between roles and positions over time. However, people move out of town, employees retire, some quit, some are laid off, and others are unfortunately fired. Being prepared for new situations is important for anyone’s success.
As mentioned in the introduction, “Change is inevitable, growth is optional.” How you react to the employee movement—the constant movement in some cases—can make or break your ability to grow professionally. You may grow despondent because you have lost close friends, you may be frozen because there is too much work to do, and you may get tired of teaching new people what needs to be done. All of these examples are the negative approaches to change. Your personal growth comes in your ability to transform yourself to meet the challenge head-on.
As you begin to ebb and flow with the changes, you, too, will be seen as a go-to person in times of crisis and change. If you have close friends who may have left the company, you can seek out their assistance as outside mentors and seek their objective point of view. If there is too much work to do, put together the business case for more resources, find efficiency opportunities, and find effective ways to delegate and spread the work. If there is a constant influx of new hires, come up with a clear plan of action to rotate the responsibilities, tighten up the training guides, and enjoy the fresh perspective staring you in the face.
I have been through multiple jobs and managers. My former company has gone through multiple CEOs and has been through multiple acquisitions prior to me losing my job due to cost cuts. All were potentially traumatic events for me personally, and for any company as a whole. I know for a fact that I have come out stronger because of them, and because I adapted my attitude as the events were happening. I am convinced that if any of these events occurred in my first five years, I would have reacted differently, including overreacting with a negative approach. You may have heard the phrase often said in business, “If you are not moving forward, you are moving backward.” You have a choice to keep going with the flow, or stay behind. Your ability to be flexible and adaptable is critical to your success.
Thomas B. Dowd III’s books available in softcover, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only):
- Now What? The Ultimate Graduation Gift for Professional Success
- Time Management Manifesto: Expert Strategies to Create an Effective Work/Life Balance
- Displacement Day: When My Job was Looking for a Job…A Reference Guide to Finding Work
- The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World
- From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide received the Gold Medal at the 2013 Axiom Business Book Awards in Business Reference
- The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood
MP3 Downloads of “From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide” are available at Apple iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Emusic, Nokia, Xbox Music, Spotify, Omnifone, Google Music Store, Rdio, Muve Music, Bloom.fm, Slacker Radio, MediaNet, 7digital, 24-7, Rumblefish, and Shazam “From Fear to Success” MP3 on CD Baby