#384  from Innovative Leader Volume 8, Number 1          January 1999

FORUM—from our readers

Mid-Career Crisis?

I’m 52 years old and have been working in the same company for my entire career.  I’m also a pretty competitive person, and always dwelled on getting to the next position as fast as I could.  Until five years ago, I usually beat out my colleagues in being offered the next plum promotion. 

In retrospect, I feel that it was getting ahead--in title--over my colleagues that was more important to me than the increased salary that came with that title.

Five years ago, I realized there were no new positions appropriate for me.  Because I’ve specialized in an area where my strengths lie, I wasn’t even considered for some of the high-level openings that become available once in a while.  There’s nothing new that was appropriate for me.  I had no carousel ring to aim for. 

When I realized my stuck-in-place quandary, doing very well at work no longer became a priority.  I spent half my days grousing about and was a pain in the neck to my boss and my staff. But, yet, I had to spend eight hours a day, five days a week at the company.  I became quite depressed.  Joining another company was out of the question since my family has established strong roots in the area, and there’s no other firm around here that could use my expertise.

Then I had a dream.  I dreamed that my team was working like a speeded-up movie film.  Everything was in fast motion.  I woke up all sweaty and somehow got into my mind that I was to make my team as effective and efficient as possible.  That became my challenge:  to get my team to perform, not just very well, but extraordinarily well.  I spent the rest of the night planning how to do this.

The next day, I got my team together and said, “Let’s have some fun!  Let’s see what we can do better.  Then, each day, let’s ask the same question. ‘What can we do even better?’  We’re not doing this primarily for the company, but for ourselves.”

That was a year ago.  Everyone on the team eventually caught the “fire” bug.  We are all astonished at what we’ve accomplished.  There’s no hint of burn-out.  We’re really having fun!

There’s still no new position for me.  But I could care less.  I’m now a “driven” man, and I like it very much.  My staff and my boss like it as well.


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