There’s a Chinese proverb for disruptive cultural shifts. A crisis is an opportunity riding a dangerous wind. To that end, the Great Resignation represents both change and opportunity for a stalled executive career.
Certainly, no labor trend has captured greater public interest in recent decades.
C-suite executives, normally resistant to popular trends, have joined the exodus. Jeff Bezos stepped down as CEO of Amazon in July 2021, and Bob Iger resigned as CEO of Disney in March 2020.
Meanwhile, Becker’s Hospital Review reported more than 40 hospital CEO resignations in 2021.
If your executive career is at a crossroads, now may be a good time to reinvent the wheel.
In this article, we explore four simple — and effective — ways to jumpstart a stalled executive career.
Decide What Makes You Get Up in the Morning
Americans are more stressed than ever. Studies show that anxiety levels in the United States are at all-time highs.
Even A-list Hollywood superstars aren’t immune to stress. Chris Hemsworth found his movie career stalled after playing George Kirk (Captain Kirk’s father) in the 2009 reboot of Star Trek.
Instead of continued success, Hemsworth experienced embarrassing rejections while auditioning for new roles. He suffered from crippling anxiety and began to question his motivations for being an actor. It’s fitting that Hemworth’s Thor experiences what director Taika Waitati calls a crisis of heroic proportions in the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder.
Similarly, you may be at a crossroads, questioning your own motivations for being an executive.
Dr. Tasha Eurich, the author of Insight: The Surprising Truth About How Others See Us, How We See Ourselves, and Why the Answers Matter More Than We Think, maintains that insight is key to professional fulfillment. Yet, we can have little insight without self-awareness. According to Dr. Eurich, the seven pillars of insight are:
- Values: the principles that guide our actions
- Fit: the environment we need to be fulfilled and engaged with the world
- Reactions: the thoughts, emotions, and actions that unveil our strengths and weaknesses
- Passions: what drives us to do what we do
- Impact: how we affect the lives of others
- Aspirations: what we want to experience and achieve
- Patterns: the consistent way we think, act, and feel
One simple way to gain more insight into your motivations is by journaling with Dr. Eurich’s self-awareness strategies in mind.
Divide your journal into three parts: new roles, everyday occurrences, and life-changing events.
Write down your reactions in each of these instances, and you’ll gain true insight into the kind of executive career you want.
Reinvent the Way You Communicate Your Strengths
You’re the Vice President of Sales and have achieved consistent profitability for your organization. You know you’re more than qualified for the senior Vice President role, overseeing the kind of corporate initiatives that can produce more growth.
Yet, despite great performance reviews, you didn’t make the last slate of promotions.
According to Stacy Meyer, author of Promotions Made Easy, you won’t see results until you convey your vision clearly and persuasively.
Essentially, changing the way you communicate your strengths can help you get promoted in less time and with less effort.
Talk to board members or other members of the C-suite staff. Share your career plan and talk about what you’re going to do to promote growth. To get them emotionally invested in your plan, you have to make a strong business case.
Irene Rosenfeld did just that. After a brief stint away from Kraft Foods, she returned as its CEO in 2006. To facilitate her return, Rosenfeld rebranded herself as an insider with an outsider’s perspective. In 2014, Forbes named her the third most influential woman in business.
In The New Secrets of CEOs, author Steve Tappin shared that Rosenfeld changed Kraft’s focus from cost-cutting and restructuring to innovation. Her method of using proprietary technology to drive financial value and deliver on changing consumer demands transformed Kraft.
In 2010, the company was able to acquire Cadbury for an eye-watering $21.8 billion. Kraft has since merged with Heinz to become the third largest food and beverage company in America. So, communication is key: do it right to get the results you want.
Delegate to Take on the Right Tasks
One simple (and highly effective) way to jumpstart a stalled executive career is to take on the right tasks. Can you delegate key responsibilities to someone else so that you can make a greater impact on growth?
Delegation allows you to participate in higher-level leadership dialogue and grow your career. You get to share your vision and the vehicles for driving success. In the book CEO Excellence: The Six Mindsets That Distinguish the Best Leaders From the Rest, the authors share how Maurice Levy (the former CEO of Publicis) grew one of the world’s largest communications companies.
Levy delegated responsibilities and focused on putting key ideas into motion. He invited guest speakers to educate his entire executive and senior management team. The group learned about global trends and disruptions from technology leaders like Mark Zuckerberg and Eric Schmidt. This led to increased morale and a renewed sense of ownership. By the time Levy stepped down, the company had reached an impressive $18 billion market cap.
During his tenure as the CEO of Adidas, Herbert Hainer leveraged similar means to double the company’s share price in twelve months. The key is to create energy and maintain its momentum.
Delegate, delegate, delegate. Then, share your vision for success by taking on tasks that drive clear value for your organization.
Find an Ally in the Right Mentor
In his book Wake up and Win, Jermain Miller talks about a time when he was broke and disillusioned. He remembers driving two hours to attend a Les Brown seminar. During the seminar, he learned about an opportunity to be mentored by the legendary motivational speaker. Although he would do anything for the privilege, Miller was also afraid. What if he failed?
Finally, after much thinking, he submitted his video application. And, the rest as they say, is history. Through mentorship by Brown, Miller blossomed in his professional career. Today, Miller is a successful author, personal development coach, and the CEO of his own consulting firm.
If you’ve been struggling with setbacks, disappointments, and losses, seeking out a mentor can be an effective way to find your bearings. Whether your career trajectory has been thrown off track or you need help with supercharging a stalled executive career, the right mentor can provide wisdom and inspiration for the road ahead.