At VIM Executive Coaching we have clients who fall into all age groups, ethnicities, beliefs, politics and orientations. We have fast-tracked executives just a year of two out of business school and successful older executives who are the envy of their peers.
We coach entrepreneurs across the rainbow of innovation, brilliance, courage and success, and we work with association and nonprofit promotional board executives who are accomplishing amazing things for the world. We cherish everyone. Truly. However, we would be less than honest if we didn’t express that every so often we meet an executive who makes us sad.
Have You Seen My Career?
Amid all of the incredible success stories and the stories of monumental failure, are a “class,” if you will of executives whose careers never really got launched, but sputtered. Many drifted from one industry to another. Sometimes they might come close to breaking through, but they mostly worked careers that bumped along, then fizzled out.
It is not that any of these folks were bad people, in fact, quite the contrary. They had potential, lots of it, but the potential faded away into the mist. Did these executives have anything in common? On the surface, no but much deeper down, they did. It is not that they lacked potential or even ambition, and some attended wonderful schools. There were deeper problems that might all be summarized by an inability to focus and to internally look at who they were and where they wanted to go.
Many executives who have the potential to be great leaders and to have wonderful careers, have no careers at all. They have no plan, they lack focus and worst of all, they react from one employment opportunity to the next. By “reaction,” I am referring to losing or leaving a job, a career path or even an industry and then seizing on the next opportunity that comes along. Sometimes the “seizing” part is almost nonsensical.
I well remember a person who came to me who had two degrees in Marine Biology from prestigious schools. He went into the seafood mariculture and seafood marketing business, which was logical. He decided he didn’t like it because he wanted to be “management potential.” Then he went into the cheese distribution business (a small company that soon closed its doors) and then, as the economy started to hit the skids, he was forced to be a regional sales manager for a glue company! It is not that “glue is bad,” as I am sure the adhesive industry is wonderful for the right person. This man was miserable.
I point blank asked him how much thought and reflection he had put into his various career moves, and he admitted “not at all.” I cannot tell you how frequently this happens.
Sharing the Truth
The man I mention above (and I am certainly not picking on him), has a career path that is endemic to a lot of mid-level executives. When we explored his goals and aspirations with him in greater detail, all he could do was to shrug. Digging far beneath the surface, he shared that he never wanted to be a biologist or a marine biologist in the first place. What he loved, truly loved, was political science and government.He hated the seafood business, cheese was even worse, and as for glue – it was a terrible compromise. It was a paycheck and he was miserable.
He was encouraged to undergo executive coaching and one of the first things we did at VIM Executive Coaching was to work with him to develop the tools of mindfulness meditation. Over time, he was gently steered in the direction about responding to opportunity rather than react this way and that. He developed the ability to understand what options made sense and what career paths didn’t.
When he came to us, he was already “older.” His options were somewhat diminished by earlier reactions and blindly following every whim. Nevertheless, he found his way into a state position that promotes agricultural products, including seafood. He gets to work with government officials on the local, state, national and international levels. He attends trade and policy meetings. Most importantly, he loves what he does and he has developed a nice career.
Careers are fleeting. Without learning to respond to possibilities and opportunities and to those we work with, we can easily watch our careers disappear into the air.