We have all experienced that crossroads in our careers when someone pushed us to the limit. It’s then that we must decide.
What is for sale?
It all happens so innocently. First you accept the job or project and get so excited about what you’re doing. Things progress and you move more deeply into the issue, the solution and the range of options.
Then you face a question that rubs against your values and what you consider the “right thing to do.” What do you do? Do you compromise your principals and beliefs to further your project and maybe your career or do you stand up for what YOU believe in. It is tough…and of course there may be consequences up to and including losing your job.
What do you do?
The first time feels like this must be how things go. Then as you move along in your career you realize you always have a choice. Let me repeat that – we always have a choice.
As I reflect on my career, I am amazed at the people that have no sense of boundaries. For these people, and we all know some…EVERYTHING is for sale. They will do whatever they are asked to do by their boss or job with no sense of personal boundaries or conscience to themselves. They rationalize as part of the job or an obligation I have because of my compensation which supports my lifestyle and family.
What I’ve decided, is that some leaders use this test as a test of loyalty to ensure they have a solid support system. For some there is no sense of personal value so anything goes. Both of these situations highlight a fundamental leadership flaw – and they are not options for me. I believe they are unhealthy regardless of what the books say.
I believe it is important to be in touch with what matters most to you. And to be clear about your decision guidelines so you can use them to optimize the right decision under pressure.
This takes time to truly understand how you’re wired. You need to determine how you will operate your life and ultimately where you draw the line. It is an important distinction and one that defines who you really are as where the “buck stops” and the definition of who you are starts. If you haven’t spent time exploring your boundaries, it is important to do so, especially since this crossroads WILL happen in your career path.
If you spend time before the issue exits, it will make the decision more clear. And make it easier for you to see the boundary so you can optimize you final choice.
This quality of leadership will be more important in the future, not less. I would encourage you to spend time to explore your values and be clear about your boundaries BEFORE you need to use them and ALWAYS debrief after each test of them to ensure you confirm your commitment and resolve to “how much of you” is for sale when you accept your next assignment.
I look forward to your feedback about this issue. Have you experienced it? How did you handle it? What do you wish you had prepared for the situation knowing what you know now? What advise would you have for others as they think about this issue?