Life is no longer sweet in the executive suite and its impact on your career (Part 1 of 2)

Posted on May 14, 2012


Okay I admit it that when for example JPMorgan Chase fired Ina Drew (the bank’s chief investment officer) because of massive trading losses, I did not shed a tear for the high powered executive. After all, we are all to varying degrees sick and tired of the abject greed of many of these power brokers. As a result, turns of events such as these are usually viewed as the execs getting their just rewards.

But . . . and it is a BIG BUT, what happens when the top dogs get moved out? In many instances, and has illustrated by the examples in Roz Usheroff’s latest blog post, the fall-out from such shake-ups reverberate throughout the entire organization, usually impacting our own job security.

So what do you do? Read on . . .

“At the other end of the spectrum is Fabrizio Freda, who runs Estee Lauder (NYSE: EL). The company set a record for both profits and revenue last year. Shares are up 100% in just two years. Still, nothing would keep the Lauder family from dismissing Freda — should they choose to — despite those successes.”

From the May 2nd, 2012 7/24 Wall Street article “The Least Powerful CEOs in America”

With alarming frequency we are beginning to see that no one and I mean no one, is immune to the possibility of waking up one morning to find that they are out of a job. This even goes for those who have inhabited the lofty heights of the executive suite.

Imagine, for example, that you are a senior director within a major corporation. Imagine that for the last three years, you have been groomed for a VP role with global client responsibilities when the position becomes available. Imagine that you are now promoted, with cool perks like business class travel and a membership at a prestigious golf club to enjoy with customers. (Or a designated limo at your disposal to whisk you off to meetings, corporate events, etc.) Fast forward, three months into the position, your boss, who was your biggest champion and mentor, leaves unexpectedly. Head-hunters are now scaling the world for his replacement. NOW IMAGINE …what would happen to your role when the restructuring starts to happen? How fireproofed are you?

Does this sound like an extraordinary perhaps even impossible turn of events? Even though it seems unbelievable, it is indeed a true story! Most recently, I had the opportunity to work for a client who was just celebrating her promotion and excited about her future opportunities in a new role. To her dismay, her boss suddenly exits. Now what happens to what appeared to be a promising and bright future?

That’s why I am writing this blog, not in judgement but more with the intention to help others to never allow complacency to happen. Memories provide lessons learned, even as I look back to a similar situation that I encountered when I worked for a prestigious organization. Sadly, I was put into a position, after my boss departed, to prove why I was even worthy of keeping my job. Like many, I never realized the value of having a contingency plan.

What do you mean you don’t have a back-up plan?!

In today’s uncertain business climate where the cradle to grave security of holding a position with the same employer for your entire career is a distant memory, no one is untouchable!

Of course, the impact of a boss’ sudden departure extends well beyond his own position to affect everyone within his sphere of influence – that most likely will include you!

Under these uncertain conditions in which we are all to varying degrees reduced to being a spectator in our own careers, you have to step back and take inventory of your political positioning. How do others view you? What are your relationships like with the power brokers, colleagues, reports, customers, and senior leadership? Now ask yourself: Who will be next to rise to the top? Who are the up and coming leaders? Who are potential or present critics who could possibly sabotage your job security? Once you paint the landscape with realistic colors, you are now ready to take back control of your job and your future.

You have to step up and stand out by establishing your distinguishable brand in which your value is readily recognized. No more hiding in the bushes of employee anonymity.

Unfortunately, most individuals have been taught that standing out from the crowd is a selfish act that alienates those with whom you work. Maybe so – at least in certain circumstances, but now that the rules have changed so dramatically, so too must our past perceptions and attitudes.

In other words, we can no longer just be good enough. We now have to be remarkable!

The question is “how do you become remarkable?”

In part 2 of this series I will touch on the things you need to do to stand out while still being able to fit in.


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