Some of you know this and some of you don’t: I have decided to retire. I have been very fortunate to have worked for three great organizations over my career. When I look back at what motivated me and what I enjoyed most, it’s a number of things: The interactions and ideas that get exchanged between people; the creativity sometimes needed to achieve a company goal or solve a complex business problem; and especially the people I have worked with and those I have mentored or who have mentored me. I would sum up some of the principles that have been, and still are, important to me during my career as follows:
· Do what is right, even if it is hard – When faced with difficult situations you sometimes have to step back and look at things objectively. Ask yourself what is the right thing to do. That may not always be the popular or easy solution. It may not play into the politics of your organization or leaders. And, it may make some people who like to take the easy way uncomfortable. If you feel something is not right or unfair, you should speak up. You may not have all the information or you may have a very valid concern that wasn’t considered. You have to be honest and objective with people no matter how uncomfortable it may make you feel. In the end you will always find that doing the right thing will make you a better leader and a better person
· Keep connected to people you look up to - I am still friends with people I have meet over 30 years ago. It’s not a lot of people but it’s the people who I have always been able to confide in, bounce ideas off of, seek counseling from or just want to catch up with how things are going. These people are the ones you can count on when careers might take a wrong turn – and they all take a wrong turn at some point. You have to work at keeping in touch and not just reaching out when you need something.
· Be careful with email you never know where it will end up – I always tell the story about how I received a nasty email from an executive at a company I worked for who tried to get me to acquiesce on a business issue that would be detrimental to my business unit. I drafted a response that objectively laid out the facts demonstrating the reasoning behind my position. That executive did not like to be challenged and responded in not so nice of a way. Unfortunately that executive mistakenly copied the President of the company in his response who upon reading the emails rallied to my side.
· Consult with HR and Legal frequently – Two of the companies I worked for had excellent Human Resource professionals and attorneys who taught me more about managing people and business situations than I can recount. I think HR is one of the most important areas of a company. A good HR executive is worth every penny they are paid. Likewise, Legal knows more about how the law can influence or determine a business situation than I will ever understand.
· Write yourself a glowing annual performance review – I have always been bad at tooting my own horn. One of my mentors made us write year-end self-reviews every year to show what we accomplished and support our variable (bonus) compensation. Those reviews had to be objective, quantifiable and related to business results. It’s a practice I employed for myself every year since. I believe it always helped remind leadership of my worth to the company. I am surprised how many people rely on their relationships and assume that is all that is necessary. Leaders move on, forget, and still get sidetracked with other issues. Written annual performance reviews are a tangible reminder and a document for your HR file that can be accessed when needed to review past performance and support career progression. There is no one better than you to write your review.
· Most of all, work to live not live to work – Work is not who we are. It is only means to earn money to afford things we want. Over the course of your career there will be events that will show you that family, friends, charities, and personal interests are more important because those people and things bring meaning to our lives and stay with us long after we leave one company either through a job change or retirement.