I've been close to being made redundant more than once. I'm sure of it. It's never gotten that far because like a creature in a jungle I could sense the danger and bounced.
Does that make me a loser? No. That makes me a survivor. It's time we talk about this in a way that stops crippling people. The recent recruitment process for Long & Co saw one of the applicants pull out of the process because she lacked the confidence to see it through. It was due to a "stressful situation at work that seriously knocked my confidence". Bugger that.
The glossy and the not so glossy version
After 1 year, Long & Co has achieved more than I dared to dream of. Still very young and with plenty of opportunities to fail ahead, I'm really pleased with the foundation; the business model, our proprietary products and the people.
Truth is, I wanted to start Long & Co when I returned from Norway 5 years ago. I wanted to capitalise on what was phenomenal experience (launching FMCG product portfolio in cooperation with Olympic committee and managing enormous budgets). I had worked with agencies and amazing leaders at a level I couldn't have dreamt of before. I had been through a prized two year brand building course, presented at global conferences, been nominated as the Marketer of the Year and later poached by the winner to head up the marketing for a bank's expansion in Eastern Europe.
That's the glossy version. The shades of grey lie in the story about a marketer taking on a huge role in FMCG. The discomfort was enormous. The rewards and the sacrifices equally so. What happened? The boss who hired me went on maternity leave and I didn't get on with the new boss. Foolish and insensitive I tried to go up the chain and point out what I thought were obvious shortcomings of the new boss. Let's just say trying this cute approach got me transferred to a less prestigious portfolio. It hurt. But I had already made a mark in industry and got poached to a bigger role in an even bigger company.
My new boss was amazing. He sat me down, asked me where I wanted to go and approached my career development with complete support. I had hit the jackpot (let's agree those types of leaders just don't come along often enough). Problem was, I was pregnant with our third child. I knew that three kids was going to be challenging in a country with no family support (my family is Norwegian but don't live close to Oslo) and a husband fed up with my crazy hours and cool climate. I was devastated. We headed to Australia.
What did my dream boss think? Well, being the phenomenal leader he is he never said it, but I think he was disappointed. I was an expensive hire and I took off to another country on full maternity pay. Of course he would be unhappy. I wish things had been different. (For the record, I'm incredibly grateful for our beautiful third child so wouldn't change that particular part one little bit!)
Back in Australia
Lacking confidence and the more practical circumstances to start Long & Co, I was fortunate to get a job at a national company based in Newcastle. Eager to make a mark (you'd think I'd learnt my lesson about staying in my box) I ruffled a few feathers but stroked more. I was told by a senior leader in the organisation to "wait my turn" and denied a promotion by another. If it wasn't for the amazing support of some of the leaders in that organisation I'm sure one of the managers would have made me redundant. Corporate life is a dangerous place. You need to nurture relationships. And do a good job (goes without saying).
More bad news?
Oh, my setbacks have been aplenty. After nearly 3 years with that company I realised I would have to wait a patient game to move up the ranks. Most are never rewarded for their endurance. I bounced to a better role in a lesser company (the following paragraph is my opinion, subjective and not necessarily everyones truth).
Wow. I have never encountered a lack of leadership quite like it. In my opinion I had entered the circus. I wasn't sure who was in charge but I sensed I would soon enough be the clown marched out of the tent. It was an atmosphere of fear. If you haven't seen Simon Sinek's 'Leaders Eat Last' you will get a glimpse of why a fear based leadership approach does not work. Around two thirds of the employees had been moved on in that organisation, moved out or jumped ship in a short period. I was charged with restructuring my department. It never got that far, but I feared the last move would see me restructured out. My view is my role was being micromanaged, my skillset questioned. Regardless of how you stack it, I experienced an environment filled with frigthened people.
Should I have stayed to defend my track record? Hell no. When you realise you're speaking a different language to your boss, when you realise your philosophies are completely at odds, you cut and run.
So much failure, so many successes
For all my failures (the above lists a few) they've contributed to my successes. Maybe I wasn't politically savvy enough for the FMCG role in Norway. Maybe I disappointed my dream boss in the bank. Of course one could wait ones turn if the talent pipeline in an organisation is clogging up the flow. Perhaps I could have defended my track record, tried to learn the language of the boss I scratched my head to understand and seek to align our philosophies.
But I wouldn't have Long & Co if I did. I wouldn't have the drive and passion to create a marketing company that leads in its field with truly good people. For the people who told me I couldn't do it, there were so many more who told me I could. Starting with my husband, amazing leaders along the way, colleagues, friends and recruiters who believed in me. To all of you; I am grateful.
I'm flawed. I don't always handle myself as well as I could. But I'm good enough. While I still seek validation from others, I'm practicing self reliance. I'm proud of who I've become and what I'm capable of. I don't want anyone telling you what you can or can't achieve. Only you can tell yourself that. You know the truth. So double down on your work ethic, skills and what makes you the person you are. It should make for a fantastic journey. Let me know how you go on your travels.