Not Just Any Green Light, Waiting For Your Green Light

Dreams come to us from two perspectives, one being the vision you have for a much, much brighter tomorrow. The other is the nightly phenomenon that drifts into your psyche like an ethereal mentor, one whose guidance is plentiful, yet ambiguous, the overall message clouded with cryptic expression.

We’ll start with the latter one first, because I can’t be the only person on the planet having incredibly lucid dreams during the pandemic . . . can I?

The other night I dreamt I was driving a car during daylight hours and was approaching a familiar intersection. My light had turned green, but I sensed the crossing traffic from both right and left was not slowing down. I decided to hit the brakes.

This sensing was accurate . . . none of the cars stopped at what you would ordinarily assume was a red light for them. My heart was pumping at the thought of what might have happened if I had tried to cross.

The light cycled back to red. The cars kept whizzing through the intersection.  I waited patiently until the crossing traffic began to slow down, eventually coming to a stop as my light cycled back to green. I then proceeded through the intersection without incident and into the vast beyond . . .

Most logical discussions around the topic would support:

  • the presence of a car as a representation of my life,
  • since I was driving, I was in control of my life at that point,
  • being that I was approaching an intersection, the symbolism of a crossroads, point of decision, or change in life direction would apply.

To me, the overall message came through loud and clear:

It’s not about waiting for any green light . . . it’s about waiting for your green light.

A Perspective of Patience

Everyone dreams about their future, one of the many benefits to being human. We plan our adventure around a destination, somewhere in the distance you identify through your response to the question: Where do you see yourself?

This is your personal Infinity Point. Everything you do from this moment forward maintains a proper perspective to that ultimate achievement. Many feel confident when strategizing the “how” and “what” to do to successfully navigate the maze of career progression: Begin with understanding the performance requirements for a next level position, build a skill base to ensure success, have the foresight to understand how this move will impact your next. Got it.

Where we struggle is with the timing and impact of a potential opportunity, understanding “when” a move is a favorable one, or not. It is seeking the correct balance between ambition and awareness, remaining patient and objective when considering what an opportunity can offer, then comparing that with what matters most to you and your organization.

This is a great time to practice patience, not the time to be secretive. The best person to provide insight into your next move is someone who either knows you or has walked a similar path. This could be your leader. A well-intentioned second opinion may also come in the form of a lateral stakeholder, a previous mentor, or someone outside of your circle who can offer an objective perspective.  

Remember to trust in the perfection. It sounds counter-intuitive, but sometimes the best career move is not being selected for a position you applied to, no matter how desperately you wanted it.

Talent Selection ‘Due Diligence’

As expected, leaders play a huge role in the success of this overall process. Talent Selection ‘Due Diligence’ is a two-fold responsibility to (a) objectively evaluate a candidate’s strengths compared to future performance expectations, and (b) candidly share additional factors lurking in the shadows of the Big Picture, so a candidate may make a fully informed decision.

This again calls for patience and the proper perspective. If you are desperate to fill a position, it can be easy to act on a surface impression, overlooking obvious gaps in experience or skill, or mismatched strengths.  

The following examples highlight the importance of this due diligence and the potential impact on a candidate’s future:      

Case #1 – General Manager Dream Job

Teri was one of the most talented and successful leaders in the organization. Her career had spanned more than three decades, from humble beginnings as an Assistant Manager, through multiple assignments in diverse Markets, as a Full-Service Hotel General Manager.

Her current hotel was ranked in the Top Ten in all three categories of the Performance Trifecta: Guest Satisfaction, Employee Engagement, and Financial Results. The sun seemed to shine on everything she touched, the result of a strong set of values and an innate ability to serve others.

Another General Manager’s position had become available and Teri applied for it immediately. She confided in me that she was considering retiring within five years, and had targeted that part of the country to settle in. You could sense the excitement bubbling up when she admitted “This would be a dream job for me”.

Teri was one of the top two candidates. Three days after her interview, she was informed that she would not be selected for the position.

Perspective of Patience: Teri was devastated. Regardless of how successful you are, not being selected for a position can take the wind out of your sails. Fortunately, she was able to secure feedback, something I wholeheartedly encourage leaders and hiring managers to provide.

Her recognized strengths, the talents she used to generate so much success, related directly to being a hands-on leader in both her service environment and work environment. The position she had applied for asked the General Manager to promote the positioning of the hotel within the business community. This would take her away from the hotel, and away from her greatest source of influence. Most likely, she would not have been able to successfully manage a split between the two areas of interest.

Less than 12 months later, another General Manager position opened within the same operating area, even closer to the community she was considering for retirement. That hotel had been struggling across the board, but within a year of Teri’s arrival, was ranked near the top in the Performance Trifecta. The sun was shining once again, courtesy of a patient perspective and astute leadership that understood what mattered most.

Case #2 – An Imperfect Fit

Robert was hired into a Lead position on the PM Shift. What a great fit . . . he had a four-year degree in Psychology and a two-year degree from an outstanding Culinary Institute, the latter based on a decision to follow his true passion. A well-rounded individual, he was talented, patient, and a highly positive influence on team chemistry.

About four months into his role, we decided to open an additional Supervisor role for the overall Culinary Operation. I immediately approached the Chef and recommended Robert for the position, rationalizing that we would have hired him as a Supervisor had the position been open then. The Chef supported this and agreed to consider him a candidate, although Robert was still two months shy of the standard time in position requirement.

The Chef then asked if Robert would be comfortable working the flexible shift rotation required within the position description. My fateful response:

“Oh, I’m sure he will be.”

I shared the news with Robert and encouraged him to apply. I mean, this was a slam dunk, no brainer. He had all the hard and soft skills you would hope for in a developing leader. As expected, Robert applied for, and with my endorsement, was hired as our newest Supervisor.

Our paths crossed infrequently over the next several weeks, as his new position evolved into more of a daytime commitment. When we finally had a moment to connect, I could sense a dramatic change in Robert’s demeanor. The calm, collected person we had hired was replaced by someone best described as “on edge”. I asked if everything was going okay, to which he replied “Perfect” and then left for the day.

Six months later, Robert left the company without notice.

Perspective of Patience: I was so impressed with Robert the Lead Cook, that I never really got to know Robert the person. Through small talk during shifts, he shared that he was married, and that he and his wife had just started a family. Another family member cared for their infant son for the brief period between Robert’s departure to work and his wife’s return from her daytime job.

Once he accepted the Supervisor position, he worked a flexible schedule, different hours on different days each week based on forecasted business volume.

The burden of arranging full-time childcare put an emotional strain on his marriage. This instability at home mirrored his situation at work. While he was very skilled at producing an a la carte menu, the oversight of a professional kitchen was new to him. Other members of the team began to question his skill, then his authority. In the end, the absence of confidence at home and work caught up to Robert, and he left both.

Everyone owns a majority share in their personal learning journeys. Robert could have easily asked questions related to the potential impact his promotion would have on his work-life balance.

In the end, I had not practiced Talent Selection ‘Due Diligence’. I was more focused on my vision for his future, when I should have been considering what was best on his behalf. By shedding light on the shadows of the Big Picture, the candidate is in a much healthier position to think for themselves.

In Summary

Your response to the question “Where do you see yourself?” works to identify your personal Infinity Point, an ultimate destination on your career path. Understanding the “what” and “how” of career progression maintain perspective to this point, and involve clarity around performance expectations, building a skill set, and awareness of how your next job will impact future growth. The “when” of your strategy involves the patience to not accept just any green light, but to wait for your green light. Sounds counterintuitive, but the best career move may turn out to be the job you are not selected for.

Leaders hold a special responsibility around Talent Selection Due Diligence, ensuring they maintain accountability for matching strengths with expectations, and shedding as much light on the shadows of a position’s Big Picture, so each candidate can make a well-informed decision for themselves, and the organization.

Thank you for spending your Tuesday with Tall Tim Talks!  

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