We’ve recently had conversations with several leaders who have asked us whether it’s time for them to hang it up, which for them meant time to leave the role they currently occupy. Frankly, at this point in our careers, it’s hard to know how to answer that question. Our entire team is composed of people who can’t imagine themselves in other roles, but that’s not what our clients/partners/friends want to hear when they are struggling. So, we’ve asked questions and done our best to support healthy exploration of the topic but still hadn’t arrived at any advice worthy of writing down, that is, until we were reacquainted with a gentleman named Tim.
Tim is a food and beverage manager at a hotel chain in the eastern panhandle (Tim’s name has been changed to protect his anonymity). Becky met Tim several years ago and has repeatedly conducted workshops and planning sessions at Tim’s hotel. As they were catching up on each other’s lives a few weeks ago, Tim shared that it was his last week serving as food and beverage manager at the hotel. When Becky asked what was driving his decision, he said that from the day he stepped into the industry nearly 30 years ago, he was honored to be part of people’s big days. Whether it was a wedding or 50th-anniversary party, his job was to make their special day everything they imagined, and that meant responding to every request they made—no matter how big or small. And Tim relished that role, until recently, when he found himself irritated by the requests he used to take pride in delivering. It was then that Tim realized that if he didn’t change—or get a change—he might ruin those special days that he used to take pride in bringing to life. When Becky asked if he might be experiencing the impact of COVID or the food and beverage version of compassion fatigue, Tim said, “No, it’s deeper than that. It’s about finding joy in my work, and I just don’t feel that anymore, and I’m pretty sure I’m not doing my job with the quality I used to.”
We think Tim’s story offers three lessons for people exploring a job change.
Conduct a Thorough Analysis. Tim didn’t make the decision to leave his job on a whim. He examined his head and heart, talked with trusted advisors, and counted the cost of transitioning to a new role at 55. He had considered the possibility that he was just experiencing seasonal dissatisfaction or compassion fatigue and determined his discontent was much deeper. While Tim had yet to identify his next career move when he made the decision to resign, he knew he had 90+ days of a financial runway (without disrupting any future retirement plans or putting his family under financial strain) and that he is entering a job market that is plush with opportunity.
Examine Effectiveness. While Tim concluded that his job didn’t bring him joy anymore, he also acknowledged gaps in his effectiveness. He shared that at 55, he was out of touch with many of the younger generations who were starting in the industry and that even though he’d tried to educate himself and adjust his leadership style, something just wasn’t clicking. Tim might have been able to overcome one of those factors and stay in his role given time and a little coaching but experiencing both diminished joy, and fading effectiveness tipped the scales too far.
Don’t Let the Expiration Date Pass. Perhaps the greatest lesson in Tim’s story is something we have discussed with leaders—their expiration dates in their current roles. As organizations change, what they need from their leaders changes too, and that either means leaders must change their styles to match those needs or recognize it’s time for new leadership. Tim navigated three decades of changes in the food and beverage industry before he realized he wasn’t going to successfully ride the next wave of change. And, to his credit, Tim read his own expiration date and removed himself before he spoiled the department, the organization, or a customer’s special day.
Reflect, Don’t Act: Have you been considering a role change? If so, reflect on Tim’s story and consider these lessons before acting.