If we had a crystal ball, life would be grand. But, because we don’t, we often find ourselves at the mercy of hindsight. Hindsight being 20/20, what is one setback you faced in your career that ended up being a blessing in disguise?
We are hardwired to respond certain ways to situations without even realizing it. My hard wire response is defense. My defense mechanism cost me my job.
One of my first HR jobs was with a very small privately owned manufacturing company. Providing leadership for the rapidly growing company meant developing HR strategies, practices and procedures to support growth and hiring staff for all levels of the organization.
It also meant advising supervisors, managers and the executive team and doing so from a neutral point of view. No one could do that better than I could because I did not have the history with the company and the owners that many of the others did. Nor did I have the benefit of established relationships; which I quickly set out to build.
Early growing pains for the company later became pains of another when the economy began to slow. Managers came and left as business decisions were made and shifts in leadership philosophies occurred. Relationships changed and became strained. I began to lose my neutrality and perspective and replace it with defense.
Only I didn’t see it.
In my quest to “protect and defend,” I failed to notice I was jeopardizing the very relationships I had worked so hard to build. The effect was stifling. No longer above the madness, I was ready to rumble. Business became personal and I entered into a spiral that did not stop until I left the company.
I submitted my resignation and we parted ways – but the physical departure really was a mute point. We had already parted ways 3 months prior when I was unexpectedly notified my department was downsized and I, through my tears, very ineptly had to let a staff member go that very same day.
It was all very telling, yet there is nothing more telling than the moment you realize you were part of the problem. And that didn’t come right away. It didn’t come until almost 1 year after I left the company and I started to hear some of the same old, familiar conversations . . . and see the same old, familiar hard wire reactions.
“Damn,” I remember saying, “It wasn’t all him. It was me.” I hired an executive coach and worked on getting “me” out of my own way.
As I worked on short circuiting my hard wire responses, I came to see just how much my defense mechanism impacted my credibility and inhibited others around me. So instead of controlling conversations, I focused on having them. I turned “No stinking way” into “Let’s talk about it.” I replaced the satisfaction in being right with the joy of developing potential in others.
Instead of protection, I focused on intention. And that turns out to be far more powerful.
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