The Unexpected Career Crisis–Got the Stuff to Survive It? | 4 Essential Steps

There’s no escaping problems. They show up whether we’re ready or not.  Smart businesses have crisis management plans so they know what to do when calamity hits. So shouldn’t we?

I was invited to review Jim Moorhead’s new book, The Instant Survivor: Right Ways to Respond When Things Go Wrong, concurrent with its release. The advice and insights are terrific!

Gone are the cradle to grave careers. Routine upheaval is more the norm than ever before.

We start our careers with great optimism and then experience a shot of reality. We soon discover success depends on our ability to survive the curve balls that come our way.

The art of surviving

Jim Moorhead’s book looks at what we need to do when faced with the unexpected. His 4-step system for conquering professional and personal crises takes the essence of a business crisis management plan and turns it into a survival kit for us. The Instant Survivor puts the control back in our hands.

If you think that crisis will skip over you, Moorhead shares innumerable, fascinating and true stories about people like:

  • Robin Roberts, ABC’s co-anchor on Good Morning America, who publicly faced her breast cancer
  • Terry Francona, professional baseball manager, who navigated career highs and devastating lows, eventually winning the World Series twice with the Boston Red Sox
  • Michael Dell, who, at 27 went from having his company on Fortune 500’s “Best of the Top 500″ list to a stock plunge that nearly ruined the company

The crises we face are just as significant to us, and we need to know how to fight  through them.

4 Survival Steps

Problems can’t get solved until we start solving them. A simple process makes it easier to get going. Moorhead recommends these four steps in “Instant Survivor”:

1. Stay Frosty

Instead of staying calm (which is always easier said than done), Moorhead tell us to move forward calmly  while “freezing out negative emotions of fear, anger, and bitterness.”

He says to sort things out objectively:

Develop a crisis management plan with three stages:

  • Diagnosis (What’s the problem?)
  • Action (What can I do?)
  • After-Action Report (What did I do well and what could I improve?)

He tells us that being self-focused  is the way we can “stay frosty.”

2. Secure Support

It’s tempting to withdraw when a crisis catches us off guard. We may feel embarrassed, ashamed, and hurt–emotions we don’t want to air in front of others. Trying to shoulder a crisis alone is the wrong tactic. Support is essential. Moorhead says,

You can survive and even thrive by denying national and worldwide crises. Yet there is one crisis, whether current or incoming, that you cannot deny. Your crisis. You cannot deny it, and you must take immediate action to deal with it. Because if you don’t, no one will.

The support of others empowers us to lead our way out of the crisis effectively.

Moorhead reminds us that before we’re in a pickle, we need to create a crisis management team (professionals, friends, and business associates) that we can call into action at a moment’s notice.

3. Stand Tall

We need to get a grip on our next moves and that means crafting a written plan. Moorhead emphasizes the importance of getting your proposed actions down on paper and managing your way out of the crisis

He emphasizes the need to be flexible, monitor your progress, and maintain momentum. It’s your plan to turn your crisis around, so you need to own it proudly. He gives you a terrific set of questions to keep you on the right track and standing tall.

4. Save Your Future

Every crisis is a fabulous learning experience. Moorhead’s book is filled with inspiring stories of every magnitude.

He writes about what to do after the crisis is past:

Choose to build a different, brighter future.

  • Your past does not dictate your future–unless you let it.
  • Use calamity to gain clarity on what you want in life.
  • Give meaning to your disaster by helping others through theirs.
  • A life comeback is possible from any depth.

Surviving is a brand

Moorhead ends reminding us that what we do to survive and how we do it contribute to our brand identity. I’m sure you’ve heard people say, “Look at Pat, s/he’s a real survivor.”

There’s a survivor in all of us. We can either make it easy on ourselves or difficult. The Instant Survivor is your leg up.

When You’ve Had Enough, How Far Should You Go? | Managing Emotions

No one likes criticism or unfair treatment. Most of us just suck it up until one day we’ve had enough. Then watch out!

Think twice

Knee-jerk reactions never pay. When we’re fed up, we need to keep our wits about us. Most of the time, we’re reacting to situations that have been brewing.

I’m a big proponent of not becoming a doormat for anyone at anytime. We’re entitled to respect and fair treatment, both of which we need to stand up for in the right way at the right time.

I’m also a big proponent of understanding the consequences of the actions we want to take. Too often, however, people let their emotions get the best of them, shooting themselves in both feet.

If you choose to act on a workplace issue, you may be, at the very least:

  • Implicating your boss who is responsible for the work environment
  • Subjecting your performance history to review in light of the issue
  • Challenging the company’s practices and their overseers like HR
  • Setting up your motives and credibility for dissection

These daunting considerations are intended to sober your emotions not negate the legitimacy of your issue.

I’m a passionate believer in doing what’s right and fair. But we shouldn’t  be stupid about it.

A clear head, an understanding of workplace realities, and a good plan set you up to do what needs to be done. A little internal leverage with influential people doesn’t hurt either.

Know what you want

Just getting your issue noticed isn’t enough. If you’re going to stir the pot be specific about the remedy you want.

Here are two interesting cases:

My client, Annette, from a Fortune 100 company was promoted to lead a work group in another state while she maintained a home office. The prior manager had built a culture of favorites; that manager was now Annette’s new boss. The perceived loss of “favorite” status by one employee resulted in a public outburst during a workshop that included insults aimed at Annette. She turned the matter over to HR: Disciplinary action followed.

Impacts: Annette’s new boss felt the sting and so did the punished employee. Other employees assessed the situation through their respective lenses. HR validated Annette’s action, noting, however, that this was a severe step considering how new Annette was to the position. Will there be subsequent fallout? Time will tell. In this case, Annette had everything documented and took swift action. She was willing to risk backlash because setting a standard of professional conduct mattered to her. What would you have done?

Next there’s Victor who was receiving poor performance reviews from a boss who didn’t like his approach to handling complex technical projects. Victor saw his boss as uncommunicative, a poor leader, and politically motivated. Victor’s reviews got progressively worse; he was put on notice to improve or else. He wanted to defend himself by reporting his boss to HR or anyone who would listen. He considered suing. Ultimately, Victor was terminated..

Impacts: Taking on the boss would mean proving that each aspect of Victor’s negative evaluation was wrong and making a case that the boss had something against him. If Victor successfully makes the “bad boss” case to the company, chances are no other manager there would want Victor. If he could manage to negate the performance criticisms, he would likely end up pointing an accusing finger at some coworkers, creating bad blood. To sue the company would leave a permanent mark on Victor that could be an obstacle for future jobs. Victor chose to move on. What would you have done?

Remember, it’s business.

Our emotions can cause us to do reckless things. When it comes to our jobs, caution makes more sense. It may feel great for the moment to tell the boss to “take this job and..,” but that only gives the control back to him or her.

We need to know how to size up each situation, identify our options, and chose the one that’s going to help us get what we want or cut our losses. Please, keep it together, okay?

Photo from Roberto Kaplan Designs via Flickr


Career in a Rut? Partner Up and Push. | A “Business Fitness” BOGO

Careers are personal. They’re about what we want from our work life and what we’ll risk to get it.                

Navigating our career path can be lonely. What it takes to be successful isn’t always clear. The messages we get may be vague or conflicting. Our coworkers may have agendas that don’t include us. 

Going it alone is how many manage their careers. That makes about as much sense as trying to lose weight, quit smoking, or master tennis without a support system. We all need someone in our corner to keep us going; they need us too. 

A rescue offer 

I wrote Business Fitness: The Power to Succeed—Your Way to make managing your career easier and to get beyond the fluff. 

If you’re ready to get serious about your career planning, I’d like to make it easy for you get (re)started: 

For all of January 2012, I’m offering buy one get one (BOGO) free, signed copies of my book.  

Just go to my website “book” tab and add one (1) copy to your cart for $19.95. (I’ll know to send two by your date of purchase.) Shipping is free in the continental U.S. 

A great career development strategy is a powerful thing. Here’s how you can us the book to build yours.

The power of partnering 

When building your career, there’s real value in partnering with someone you trust and respect, someone to hold you accountable for setting goals and staying the course for success. 

There reasons galore why we benefit from the support of a partner: 

  • It’s difficult for us to see ourselves objectively. We need a filter. 
  • It’s difficult to stay motivated when things go awry, when we’ve been disappointed, and when we lose our optimism. 
  • It’s difficult to stay up when our self-confidence wanes, self-doubt haunts us, and opportunities have been missed. 

Whether careers are exotic or mundane, they often progress in mysterious and unpredictable ways. The only aspects we control are the choices we make, the capabilities we develop, the chances we take, and the relationships we form. 

Along the way, we need to  build momentum around our efforts until the pieces take shape and a picture of our career emerges. A “business fitness” partner can keep us on track.

 Keep pushing 

Finding career success isn’t easy. It means always pressing forward. Funny, how we continually need to push and be pushed. So give this approach a try: 

  • Select a single partner or small group (no more than 5)
  • Agree to meet at a set day and time (at least twice monthly)
  • Use your first meeting to establish ground rules, particularly confidentiality around information shared. Then share what kind of success each of you wants right now.
  • Assign one chapter from Business Fitness to be read and discussed at each meeting. Agree to share answers to the inventories at each chapter end.
  • After all the chapters have been discussed, go back and (re)write your career goals and share. Hold each other accountable for specific statements.
  • Use each subsequent meeting to review progress on goals, provide insights and support, and identify ways to help each other move forward. 
  • Make the meetings and the process fun!

This process is part book club, mastermind group, and individual mentoring/coaching. As you progress, you’ll come up with endless next steps that will build your capabilities, strengthen your self-confidence, and deepen relationships. 

Career building takes discipline. There are no shortcuts that are sustainable. When we’re at our best, we feel business fit. To get there, we need each other.

The Ever-Ready Exit Strategy—Your Career’s Best Friend

Jobs aren’t forever anymore. That’s a reality we often try to forget when we (finally) get hired.   

No matter how great our careers are going, things will eventually change and us too. The shine will come off our jobs, the company, our boss, and/or our coworkers. 

When our careers are moving along well, we’re energized. When they’re not, we start looking behind us. 

Time’s up. 

Getting a job is one thing and keeping it another. We tend to invest significant thought and energy in both. 

Like it or not, the time will come when the party’s over and very few have a strategy to deal with that. 

We tend to think of exit strategies as actions a company or entrepreneur takes “to transition one’s ownership of a company…[or] devise ways of recouping the capital they have invested….”  

Well, that’s you: Your life is your business and you’re the sole proprietor. That means your job is your source of capital, something that you need to protect and build. No time like the present, then, to develop an exit strategy to implement when you need it. 

When it’s time to walk… 

Change is both predictable and unpredictable, so we need to be ready to act prudently and strategically when conditions present themselves, like when: 

A line has been crossed—You’ve reached your limit of unfair treatment, broken promises, excessive workload, or disrespect

You’re motivationally bankrupt—Disappointment, negative or no feedback, ever-shifting direction, and disengagement have sapped your energy.

You’ve drawn the short straw—The last-in and first-out formula puts you out the door, or a work assignment that’s detestable is forced on you.

You wake up—The moment of discovery that you’re in the wrong career hits you like a surprise party when it isn’t your birthday.

The perfect job comes along—An opportunity lands in your lap that you never expected, perhaps in another line of work or industry, but it’s tailor made for you. 

I’m sure you can think of other situations that are calls for “exit action.” Often there’s not much time to make decisions or act, so prior preparation is all. 

Be ready…. 

Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to get prepared. Consider these seven steps: 

  1. Stay solvent—Be smart about your money by living within your means, knowing what you can live without, and keeping some liquid asset near at hand.
  2. Create fall back positions—Set up some realistic, money-producing options just in case, like some freelance work, part-time work outlets, or a hobby business.
  3. Don’t burn bridges—Keep your emotions under control and face situations like a grown up, recognizing that we don’t always get what we want and understanding that word about you will travel fast.
  4. Keep tabs—Your records are important assets, so keep them up to date, including contact info for people in your network, the results you achieved in your jobs, and organizational resources you can tap.
  5. Be respectful—When it’s time to go, let your decision be known through the chain of command, avoiding drama. Remember you don’t want to be famous for leaving, but respected and respectful.
  6. Send the right message—Express your reasons in a big picture context, recognizing the positives from your job and acknowledging the factors that didn’t match your expectations. Use clear and calm language.
  7. Protect your brand—Your reputation and image follow you everywhere, both as you enter and as you leave a company. Take a marketer’s approach to your leaving by rising above negative issues and by showing gratitude for the positives.

Keeping it together 

A workable exit strategy is about mindset and practical positioning. The more you can accept the likelihood that you will eventually make a career change, the more you will look at your work as a gateway to another career phase. 

Change is a good thing. It keeps us moving when we may be getting too comfortable. We just need to be ready to make a gracious exit that will neatly open the next door. 

Photo from jm3 via Flickr