My first work related leadership lesson happened 25 years ago. I was fresh out of college working in a corporate office high above San Francisco’s financial district. Life was good, until one day my boss said to me, “You should quit and become a comedian.”
Well, I got to be me. I knew I was funny and irreverent at times. I also knew I was very good at my job and a natural at leading others to perform. My boss really did not want me to leave. She recognized something about my personality and style that was unique to me and she wanted me to know it. “Keep it up Michael. You make a difference.”
There is the leadership lesson for the day – be true to self and your unique expression of personality and self-expression. This authentic nature will serve you well as you connect with others as it has served me over the past 25 years.
This week I reach my 25 year mark with my company. I know some folks with similar tenure but in general the average company tenure for someone my age is less than 10 years in the United States. These days people move from job to job and fill up their Resumes with several companies by the time they reach my age.
Not me – on my Resume there is one company. For the past several years I thought I made a mistake and should have moved on and on to fill up my Resume. Who stays with one organization that long? He must not be ambitious. He can not be an “A” player.
Recently though I came to realize that I will wear this badge of 25 years with one company proudly. Few people accomplish this and under closer inspection, there is no negative I can not overcome.
Why did I stay? The people, the culture, the challenges, the learning, and overall making a difference. I have seen it all and done it all. I had no reason to leave. We went public, we grew into new markets, we experienced the highs of business success. We also experienced the floor falling out below our feet and the mad charge to save our company. Yes, for a leader it has been a great and challenging place to work.
So 25 years and counting (well, at least a bit longer). I had two distinct careers with my company. The first was Human Resources where I grew into my training and OD expertise. My second career is in Operations where I get to roll up my sleeves and practice real-world HR and OD and produce tangible product.
There is a third career ahead for me. Do I go back to career one in HR and OD? My experience in operations will serve me well in that world. Do I stay with Operations and work with a great team to produce consistent and excellent work product?
Or do I create an entirely new career? Who knows maybe my first boss was right all along.