November 28th, 2012 | 1:30 pm

Five Leadership Practices to Make Work Transitions Easier

filed under Ask A Career Coach

Contributed by CEO Coach Henna Inam

Are you going through a work transition or contemplating it? Unhappy in your current role but feel stuck or unsure about what to do next? The economy has many people going through transitions right now.

True story. A senior level sales leader came to me 12 months ago very clear that her work situation was not working for her. Her company, under pressure to increase profits, had raised prices dramatically. As customers quickly shifted to competitors, she was being held accountable for lost sales. As the primary bread earner in her family she couldn’t just quit her job, yet the pressure was untenable. She felt stuck. She approached me for executive coaching to transition to a company that had a more sustainable business strategy and would be a better fit. Soon after we started working together she ended up losing her job due to layoffs at her company.

Here are five leadership practices that helped her get to a job that was a much better fit for her.

Five Practices for Landing The Right Job

1. Acknowledge the emotions. Usually any change we don’t like creates a lot of discomfort. Especially when the change is thrust upon us (e.g. through layoffs), we experience a sense of loss. The loss is not just in income and benefits. The deeper loss we may experience can be a loss of self-confidence and identity. For most of us who are high achievers, our self-worth is wrapped around being a gainfully employed individual. While our first impulse is to look for the next job, we need to take time to process the roller coaster of emotions – fear, self-doubt, relief, excitement, and other emotions we feel.

Working with an executive coach is a great way to process the emotions that can get in the way of rational thinking. Running away from them just buries them. We don’t want them erupting in job interviews. If we feel anger and grudges, forgiveness work is excellent as well.

2. Embrace the uncertainty. I don’t know about you, but my first impulse about uncertainty is to run away from it. I want to quickly get back to a safe place where I know what the rules are and they are working in my favor (i.e. let me just work on the resume and start networking for a job). I remember during the time I was making my transition from corporate to being an entrepreneur, I would have dreams of being lost in a strange city, trying to get to an important meeting with no address, no map and without my phone (okay that was officially a nightmare!). What I’ve learned is that uncertainty, while uncomfortable, is an excellent emotion to help us pause. If we weren’t confused, how would we ever be open to new learning? Stay with the confusion. When we’re on the corporate stairmaster, it’s hard to take the step back to get perspective, so use the time now to do that.

3. There are no failures, only learning. Once we process our emotions it’s easier for us to see the lessons in the experience. If we can shift our own mindset to see all changes as a way for us to succeed, it’s easier to learn the lessons. We are able to look back as Steve Jobs did, and see how each transition was a gift to learn what he needed to know to succeed. In his Stanford graduation speech, Jobs talks about the lessons that he learned from “failing” in his first tenure at Apple, and how the learning ultimately helped him succeed.

4. Let the inner voice guide what’s next. If we can learn to work with our fears, we can actually use this time to outline what kind of work would be the best fit for us. The best person to turn to for advice is you. In his speech, Jobs said, “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice… have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” Try journalling to get clarity on what you really want. A friend took a silent retreat. What does success look like to you, now? Refocus on your strengths. Refocus on what brings you joy and start doing it! Take classes that you’ve always wanted to take.

All this gives us the energy that we need to lift ourselves up and remember who we really are. Take self-assessments to learn more about yourself. Transitions are a great opportunity for us to go deeper toward our own authenticity as we shed beliefs and frameworks for our self-worth that no longer serve us. Here are some ways to listen to our inner voice to discover what’s next.

5. Create a more authentic leadership identity. Once the lessons are captured, it’s time to get clear by creating a more authentic leadership identity. Our personal leadership brand evolves as we do. As we capture the lessons of all of our experiences, as we articulate our sense of purpose, strengths, and core values, a more authentic identity emerges. We discover the unique value that we bring and the kinds of work situations that best set us up for success. This evolved leadership brand is what I use with my executive coaching clients to create an updated resume that truly differentiates them. This evolved identity becomes a guiding light that brings clarity for the work that inspires them. This clarity is the first step in empowering them to move forward, to overcome fears and take action in the direction of their dreams. When you are inspired, it shines through in job interviews. The best way to convince someone about our value is to be convinced ourselves.

My executive coaching client found a new job within a few months. She recently sent me an e-mail. Here’s what she said: “I’m doing well and loving my position at my company. It is a perfect blend of using my skills and experience in conjunction with the community involvement that I was wanting and needing. God has a way of putting you where he/she needs you to be, and where you need to be…the journey is rough sometimes, but it makes the reward so much better! Thank you again for being a great coach!”

As you can imagine, her note made my day. It’s one that I’m keeping for the days that are tough. Unlike Disney movies, our growth never really has a neatly wrapped ending where we ride off into the sunset. We face new challenges and transitions. It’s the only way to grow. My client’s note is a reminder that transitioning to work that is more authentic is definitely worthwhile.


Henna Inam is CEO of Transformational Leadership Inc., a company focused on helping women achieve their potential to be transformational leaders. A former C-Suite executive with Fortune 500 companies, her passion is to help leaders be successful, deeply engaged, and create organizations that drive breakthroughs in innovation, growth and engagement. Connect @hennainam. Subscribe to her blog at www.transformleaders.tv.

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