Being at Right Place at Right time in Your Career
Dwight Eisenhower would never have been President of the United States if it were not for World War II.
Have you ever accepted a position or assignment that was so challenging that you said to yourself, “If I knew the challenges and issues that came with this position were this significant, I would not have accepted it.”
Dwelling on challenge of the moment can lead us to overlook the opportunity of the moment. If you have a deep understanding of your personal product (your skills, capabilities, and strengths), you will recognize the right opportunities, opportunities of the moment. In your career, the right opportunities are being at the right place at the right time.
Ken was recruited to become the Chief Information Officer (CIO) for a Fortune 100 company. He had a stellar record which included being innovative and someone who related well with senior executives, business partners, and members of his organizations.
Ken’s communication of his objectives to the company’s Executive Committee was received with great enthusiasm from members of the Committee.
His initial address to the IT organization was full of hope and enthusiasm. He communicated a vision of an IT organization that was highly-respected by business partners and company senior executives and exceeded their expectations.
Then came the challenges. Accomplishing the objectives that Ken established for the organization required significant investments. The investments would have to compete with other business objectives such as launching new products, updating manufacturing facilities, and funding global expansion. There were also morale issues in the IT organization fueled by a disconnect between Ken’s predecessor and the members of the organization, the loss of talent that departed the company, and the hangover from the organization’s downsizing 2 years before Ken’s arrival.
Ken stopped by Tom’s office. Tom, who had been with the company for 30 years, had announced his retirement. Ken and Tom had established a relationship based on their mutual interest in basketball and Tom’s knowledge of the IT organization and the culture of the company. Tom thought that Ken was stopping by to talk about which college basketball teams would be in the NCAA Men’s Final Four. Tom sensed that Ken wanted to have a more serious discussion when Ken closed the door.
Ken: What have gotten myself into?
Tom: Nothing you can’t handle, I hope. (with a smile)
Ken: I was really charged after the reception I received from the Executive Committee when I shared my objectives for the IT organization.
Tom: I remember you sharing the experience with me. I also saw you light up our organization with your rousing address at the all hands meeting last month.
Ken: I don’t feel so charged now.
Tom: What happened?
Ken: I presented the investment, the price tag, required to achieve the IT objectives to the Executive Committee. I received pushback from the Committee.
Tom: Come on, Ken. Is this this the first time you have received pushback from senior executives when it comes to funding?
Ken: I guess I should not be surprised. But, this time I am the new kid on the block. I do not know if I was misled by the enthusiasm when I communicated my objectives, that the Committee was not that supportive of IT, or that I was being told that I had to do super sales job to get funding.
Tom: Ken, have you ever been in a company that made it easy to get the millions of dollars you are requesting?
Ken: I must say that I have not.
Tom: Remember that members of the Executive Committee are also seeking funding to accomplish their objectives. They know that the pie has a limited number of pieces. Every slice they approve for you may be a slice they will not get. This isn’t a problem you have not solved as you progressed to be the CIO of a company our size. It is the same story with different characters.
Ken: I get your point. But this is not all. Morale in the organization is lower than I expected. I have attended departmental meetings in my organization. Boy, did I get an earful!
Tom: What did you hear?
Ken: I heard that members of our organization were getting frequent calls from headhunters and that we are losing talent. People feel that they are overworked and not appreciated by management. There is a lack of teamwork. People keep complaining about my predecessor.
Tom: Are these challenges that you have not handled or seen someone handle?
Ken: Okay, same story with different characters.
Tom: From now on, I am going to call you Ike.
Tom: I am calling you Ike as a reference to Dwight Ike Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States. Dwight Eisenhower would never have been President of the United States if it were not for World War II.
Dwight Eisenhower was not promoted to the rank of brigadier general, the lowest rank for generals in the Army, until October 1941. That was 2 months before Pearl Harbor and the entry of the United States into World War II. There were several generals including Douglas MacArthur, George Patton and Omar Bradley who held higher ranks and had more impressive resumes. However, Dwight Eisenhower had that combination of interpersonal, leadership, and organizational skills that were needed to deal with the great challenges presented by World War II, including getting the challenging personalities of General George Patton, Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery, Winston Churchill, and Charles de Gaulle to work together. Eisenhower perfected his personal product, his skills, capabilities, and strengths, as he served in several command and staff positions between the world wars.
Eisenhower’s rise to the rank of 5 Star General and to the position of Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe became his launching pad for his election as President of the United States.
World War II was the right time and the right place for Dwight Eisenhower.
Ken: I am going to read about Eisenhower. His story could be inspirational as I take on the challenges of being the CIO of our company.
Tom: Work is a problem to be solved. You were hired because our CEO and senior executives believed that you could solve the IT problems the company is experiencing. You have a performance record that reads “right place at the right time”. Our company’s problems are Ken’s World War II.
Ken: I set a career goal to be the CIO of a Fortune 100 company 10 years ago. I developed a personal development plan that included the experience, skills, positions, and accomplishments I needed when the opportunity presented itself. And, I executed the plan.
Tom: I haven’t told you anything you did not already know.
Ken: You may not have. But, you gave me one heck of a confirmation. Thank you. I owe you lunch for this.
Tom: Lunch! I want a steak dinner and wine! (with a chuckle)
Ken was operating The Business of Ken.
Ken developed his personal product to position himself for his right opportunity, right place at the right time.
In business, having products at the right place at the right time is known as Positioning, one of the 6 Ps of Marketing.
Ken applied Positioning to the management of his career.
Last week’s article, Do the Right People Know Your Brand?, addressed Presentation. Articles over the next 4 weeks will address the other Ps.
Did this article generate an AHA moment for you?
Are you in the right place at the right time in your career?
Do you have a filter to determine your right place and right time?
Have you developed a Target Position Description to define your right place and time?
Have you developed a Pro Forma Resume to guide your personal development?
I invite you to share your comments, experiences, and suggestions. This helps me provide information that may help you address your career opportunities and challenges.
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Linwood Bailey is a career coach and the author of The Business of Me: Your Job … Your Career … Your Value. The Business of Me provides a career management process and information designed for today’s business professional. Since 2008, Linwood has enabled business professionals to manage their careers. Linwood, the been there coach, provides innovative career management solutions derived from his 34 years of experience managing functions and people in multiple industries, regions, and corporate cultures.
Founder, Fields of Success, LLC
Your career is your most important economic asset.