November 15, 2006

Four Ways To Avoid Career Suicide

Update: Many individuals are arriving at this post after a search about suicide. If you are feeling sad, depressed, or just want to talk to somebody, please click here for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

You lead a database marketing team, and are proud of the accomplishments of your group. You are up-to-date on all the latest techniques and buzzwords. Your team makes valuable contributions to your business. You have demonstrated the return on investment (ROI) of your team's efforts.

And then, out of the blue, something happens that changes your world.
  • Your business is sold to an investment group seeking to turn around your results.
  • Your CEO/President is fired, replaced by a leader who wants to take the business in a new direction.
  • A team of management consultants are assigned the task of leveraging your team's resources to accomplish management initiatives.
  • A new executive is hired to bring necessary expertise (and a fresh perspective) that is currently missing from your organization.
Any of these scenarios means one thing for the Vice President of Database Marketing. You are going to have new folks in positions of leadership wanting to put their warm hands all over you, like you were a mouse connected to a computer.

These individuals will soon enter your office, wearing well-tailored suits, offering smiles of partnership. After exchanging pleasantries with members of the investment firm, your new CEO, management consultants, or the new executive, the tone is likely to change. Frequently, these individuals start asking questions within the perspective of their worldview. No matter how brilliant your team is, or how well you have performed, these folks will demand that you begin servicing their needs, according to their agenda, according to their timelines, using their metrics.

You face an inflection point in your career. Any defense of "the way we've always done things" is not likely to be met favorably. Assuming you want to keep your job, or you have to keep your job, you need to avoid career suicide.

Here are four ways to avoid trouble.

#1: Learn. Whether you agree or disagree with these folks, they probably offer a different perspective. Why not take the time to understand their point of view, and learn from their experiences? Is there any merit to the way they look at the world? How can you combine their style with your style to truly improve your abilities?

#2: Be A Leader. Your team probably has as many questions, and feelings of discomfort as you have. Be honest about how you feel, but be sure to keep everybody focused and productive. Don't walk around hanging your head, don't exhibit poor body language. Be positive. Be as optimistic as you can be. Give your folks reason to have hope, give them someone to believe in.

#3: Don't Gossip. This is a big no-no. Bite your tongue. Don't gossip about others to the folks in your office. Don't gossip to others about the folks in your office. Don't gossip to your staff about the folks in your office. If you figure out how to do this effectively, please show me how.

#4: Think Long-Term: If you have a new CEO, there's a good chance s/he won't be around in two or three years. If an investment group is evaluating your company, your time in their clutches may even be shorter. If management consultants are running your team in circles, the duration of their engagement is limited to the funds allocated by senior management. If a new executive is involved, remember that your organization's culture is likely to shape the direction the new executive takes things. Help that person through it.

If you can't stomach the way these individuals have hijacked your destiny, you need to consider a new company, or new department. Being a cancer to this new process benefits nobody. But if you can tolerate the new projects and viewpoints these individuals introduce, give these four concepts a chance.

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