I was about to start this section as “prove negative people wrong,” but realized that not all situations involve a negative person. Some just involve an honest person strong enough to tell you something you may not want to hear but need to hear. Years ago, I was growing tired of my computer programming position. I had been in the role for only three months. The computer programming assignment was more a move to get me out of my previous job than a move because the job was a great fit for me. It was not a match made in heaven for a communication major with no computer expertise.
I knew I needed a change. I became more dissatisfied with my job as I realized that it was not the proper career path for me and I had a steep learning curve in a position I was not motivated to pursue. The experience was good in teaching me that this role was not for me. I am glad for the time because I was put in the shoes of people who do this difficult job of getting calls only when something is broken or receiving the urgent request when someone needed it yesterday.
I surprised myself by proactively setting up a meeting with the senior executive to see what it would take to transfer somewhere else—anywhere else, actually—to become a manager of people again. My approach was not to complain about what I was doing at this point in my career, because as much as I disliked it, I was still doing a valuable function.
If you recall, this was the time in my career when I was removed as a manager because I, the “interpersonal communications major” could not relate well with people. The senior leader said he did not see me successfully leading people. He would only make me manager again if he saw me as someone who could lead an entire department. He wanted someone in whom he could see true leadership material. He needed to see the potential of a candidate two positions ahead, not just in the next promotion. He said he did not see that potential in me as a leader and denied my request. I can’t blame him. My reputation was not stellar when it came to people management at the time.
As I look at it now, he was being direct and honest; something I crave now. I spent many years bitterly and conveniently remembering a different tone and context: he was out to get me, and I needed to prove him wrong. Although I genuinely believed he did not like me or want to see me succeed, I realize now that I created my own perception of the conversation to fit my need to be motivated. I needed the rejection to push me further to succeed.
There are two things you can do when you get tough feedback you don’t want but need to hear. You can do nothing. Nothing can also be expanded to complain about it, be frustrated by it, and do not seek a solution. The other option is to accept it and make the most of it. You can use the feedback to make yourself better and stronger. You can build character and put yourself into a better position to succeed. Direct and honest feedback does not come as often as we like. There is value in it and we should absorb as much of it as possible.
I believe that that interaction with the senior executive that lasted no more than ten minutes saved my career. I had a specific focus point to motivate me. I must have thought about it every day for over five years. It drove me. It pushed me harder. It became my driving force to rally at a time when I was ready to walk out the door. My wife reminds me now that my misery and frustration were growing so much that if I hadn’t changed my career course at that time, we probably wouldn’t have stayed together long enough to marry. In simple terms, I was getting on her nerves with my constant complaining.
The manager who chose not to give me another chance in a manager role did offer me a chance to support a newly-formed business in another state. I would not be managing people. However, I now had the drive to prove him wrong. I did have the added motivation on the personal front of being newly engaged to a great woman, and I wanted to have a great life for my soon-to-be wife.
Being told I could not do something or was not good enough drove me to seek out the answers I needed to improve and eventually get where I wanted to be. As often as I thought about it bitterly for so many years, I am thankful for the courage the person had to tell me what I had to hear, and I am appreciative for the extra kick I needed to want to prove to everyone that I could do whatever I set my mind to. I needed to prove the people wrong who said I wasn’t ready for it. More importantly, I needed to make the doubt in my own abilities go away. I needed to prove myself wrong. I stopped thinking about that fateful conversation every day when I got my first job managing managers about five years later. I reached my goal with hard work and a push towards transforming myself into the person I wanted to be and towards the person I knew I was capable of being. I proved him wrong. I wonder now if he was trying to motivate me from the start.
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
See “Products” for details on www.transformationtom.com. Book, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only) purchase options are also available on Amazon- Please click the link to be re-directed: Amazon.com