The Show Must Go On

“I guess I’m learning
I must be warmer now
I’ll soon be turning
Round the corner now
outside the dawn is breaking
but inside in the dark I’m aching to be free”

It strikes a nerve with me when I hear this now famous song by Queen (also performed by Queen + Paul Rodgers – which I like as well!), and I begin to think about the times during my career when I decided to call it quits and move on to greener pastures. You know the feeling, right? The mind begins to wander, and you begin to question your decisions – how will this organization function without my leadership, and what about the major projects underway? Surely they will fall apart if I leave now? And what about the great team I have in place, including those who joined the organization because of me? What will happen to them and their careers after I’m long gone?

Oh, the guilt…

OK – stop right there! Here’s the deal: while the organization is hopefully much better off having had you steer the ship and lead – trust me when I tell you – the show will go on after you are gone. It just will. I talk with candidates all of the time who have a complete guilt trip and are disillusioned over the pending organizational failure in their absence. They labor over leaving; many actually feel physically sick! OUCH! Just that thought alone is (very) scary! Teams that are deep and wide are built with great people deliver value every day. If the organization does fall apart if you leave, it was likely not built with a solid foundation to begin with. I highly doubt it will fail just because you have decided to move on.

I never recommend that you “time a departure”, as in most cases you will always find a good reason to believe that now or any time in the future is never the right time to leave. It’s just not true. Sure, if you have a “go-live” date that’s two weeks out, I could understand why a few more weeks makes better sense for you to give you time to protect your brand equity and see a major project materialize – I get that. That same argument several months out, however, probably doesn’t hold water. When you grow tired of what you are doing, or find yourself working for a toxic or a terrible leader, you have to make a decision for you, your family and your career. It’s really that simple.

“My soul is painted
like the wings of butterflies
fairytales of yesterday
will grow but never die
I can fly my friends”

As much as we all think about our real organizational value – deep organizations are not predicated by the tenure of any single individual. And, yes, the show will go on with or without you!

Consequences of Resigning Without a Plan…

So, you are ready to quit your job? Understandable. Been there. That was a few years ago. This is now. Whatever you do please proceed with caution. The days of calling your favorite recruiter to quickly hand pick your next gig and land in a couple of months are not completely over – but they are clearly “on hold’ while we all wait for this market to turn. The timeline for finding a “C” level job is (at least) several quarters based on recent estimates. If you have made the mental and emotional choice to leave your current employer I would like to offer a few suggestions that may seem obvious to most of you.

1. DON’T EVEN THINK about resigning until you have landed another job. Period. Do not pass go – do not let your emotions drive you to leave before you have a written offer and you have accepted. No exceptions. No verbal offers – No promises from a friend or colleague. No-No-No.

2. Reach out to a few trusted peers, colleagues and top notch recruiters to get a “feel for the market”. They usually have their finger on the pulse. Get their assessment of what the market conditions look like and what they might see on the horizon. They would be a good barometer to help narrow your opportunity window as to when you might be able to find a new job.

3. Write down the ideal job you would like to find. Just finding another CIO role is one thing. Finding the ideal culture and leadership team would be at the top of my list. Are you willing to relocate? If so, can you sell your home or, like others are you under water. It doesn’t mean you can’t relocate. However, you may have to consider renting your home until the market conditions improve. Not the end of the world.

4. While you still have pen in hand, write down what you like and what you don’t like about your current situation. Are you being challenged? Is their something wrong with the environment or culture? What is it?Is your CEO a great leader – or not much of a leader at all? If you have been with your current employer for years and years you may be experiencing “burn-out” and mentally you may have already checked out. If so, go back to # 1 on this list and re-read the message.

5. Is it time for you to scale to another C-level position? Having run a large IT organization and a substantial budget may be enough to land a COO opportunity. While it may not be for everyone – it’s certainly an option for career progression. Are you interested in taking your skills to be the CTO of a HCIT vendor organization? The buzz with the Obama stimulus package will clearly create huge opportunities in the HCIT marketplace. Another option to ponder.

6. Finally, have a written plan and make sure you know exactly what you want to do. Clarity is the key. Don’t just leave and change business cards for the sake of leaving. Make sure you are accomplishing your career goals and personal goals as well. Your job should be challenging, and allow to you continue to learn and grow your knowledge and skills. Finally you should have fun in what you do! You work over 2,000 hours each year and you should look forward to waking up every day excited about going to work!

Footnote: Oh, about the professional in the photo above. He, obviously had no plan and did not read and understand Rule # 1. Let’s just hope he likes pizza…