Note: This post has been adapted from a monthly e-letter to clients and colleagues.
Dear Clients and Colleagues:
What is a new narrative? Great question that deserves a better answer. Put simply, narrative is a story. In the context of leadership and career transition, a new narrative often takes the form of a bio (brief biography) that frames where someone has been vs. where they want to go. This starting block has to strike a balance, meaning the story has to point forward not backwards like so many resumes and CVs do.
The classic bio is often filled with a list of achievements, many of which occurred in the past. While experiences are important, the ability to transfer past history to present/future attitude is the key to effective change. Boards and hiring influencers want to know what you’re doing now and not only how it translates but also how it transfers with conviction. Far too few are willing to embrace “the translate and transfer” challenge largely out of fear of the unknown. Which, by the way, is completely normal. You’re human.
Here are five other obstacles to effective transition and proven ways to remove them:
1.) THE story. It’s not just about your own story although that’s important. It’s about how your story fits into a larger one. What does the business actually do that people buy? What makes it valuable? How did it perform before vs. now? How would you define your role in its success? Start with that line of questioning vs. the “I did this and I did that” bits and bytes mentality that far too often informs conversation about jobs and careers. Throw in some color that talks about how you overcame conflict, which is essential to any good drama much less one that glows about yourself.
2.) Extended self-introspection. We are our own worst enemy. While some reflection is necessary to manage change, extended navel gazing, isolation and lack of accountability can spell disaster. Unplug and get with some friends who aren’t afraid to share the truth in love. Hire pros if you’re running low on good friends. Where do they see you going or planting? Better yet, what opportunities could be really energizing?
3.) Lack of incentive. This is what ultimately destroys the value of a new narrative before it can ever take hold. The greatest incentive is always the coveted top prize: New job, position of influence, higher rank, more money, etc. Yet often this short-term mindset can lead to disappointment when results aren’t achieved immediately by pushing the Uber button. The average transition can range between 12-18 months in a good cycle and longer in a bad cycle. For those who have been protected from the economic ups and downs over the past five years, there have probably been at least 10 different cycles within that stretch. Do your own math and adjust course accordingly. Here’s a creative way forward on incentive: For every significant step you take, donate $100 to your favorite charity or cause (church plates count, too.) Proper margin always helps.
4.) False narratives. We all have stories and experiences from our past that don’t align with where we are now. Or where we want to be. The best way to correct a false narrative is to carve out a new one preferably with folks who can see you in a new light. If you’re not in position to do so, then start moving that way.
5.) Destiny’s myth. Accept fact that you don’t control the outcome, only the inputs. The single biggest myth is that we control our own destiny. With respect to Ayn Rand and Ralph Waldo Emerson, that’s simply not true and never has been. Turn the reality shows and social streaming off. This one is called real life. “The journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.” — famous Chinese philosopher.