The 18 Month Syndrome

On May 18, 2011, in Blog, Leadership, by Christine Glasco

After coaching numerous executives through career transition over the last twelve years, I began to see a trend.  Inevitably, when I asked:

“What happened? Why did you [select one of the following endings] separate from, get fired from, resign by mutual agreement from, retire from, quit, accept a package to leave, negotiate an exit strategy and pull the plug on…. your role as XXXX with your employer?”

If you look closely at their answers, it is possible to begin to outline an Early Warning System template:

  • ‘I stopped enjoying my role about a year-and-a-half ago’
  • ‘I ran afoul of the new CEO who came in with his own team a little over a year ago’
  • ‘I disagreed with the new strategy of where the company was going’
  • ‘I was reassigned ten months ago and I knew I was in trouble’
  • ‘I got caught in a restructure and even though I had a job, it was not something that I wanted’
  • ‘The company sold the international operations and the Australia division – it was just a matter of months before they began to cut highly paid executives’
  • ‘My functional area was decimated and the decision was made to outsource the function’
  • ‘I received negative feedback after presenting a new strategic direction to the Board; the CEO would not support my position’
  • ‘The CEO said he wanted change and that he would stand behind me and the massive changes that needed to be made.  But when I began to question the performance and contribution of a few ‘sacred cows’ – he changed his mind and fired me’
  • ‘My company sold the commercial division to a foreign company and sold the consumer division to a US company.  My division was absorbed into the US company and of course there were duplicate roles and areas of accountability.  The whole leadership team got the axe’

The real message here is: most of the time, the executives knew things were changing.  The company culture or the strategy or what was viewed as the ‘right’ leadership style had changed.  The company did not want as much change as they advertised.  There was a poor fit between the incoming CEO and some of the senior leadership team members.  A merger or acquisition required a major turnaround or growth strategy.

And yet, they did nothing.

When I say they did nothing, that’s not really true.  They worked longer hours, they tried harder, they had meetings and discussions with the CEO or Board, they held their tongues, they sometimes spouted the company line – but in the end they were terminated.

My role with the executives was to help them transition – but I also felt I needed to provide them with the skills to anticipate these scenarios in future.   For as surely as the sun rises, the same situations or some variation are likely to occur in their next role.  I also wanted to give them the tools to take positive actions to forestall or at least get in front of the situation before the termination occurs.

What You Can Do

What can an executive do when the winds of change begin to impact his or her career or organization?

  1. Recognize and acknowledge the feeling of unease, concern, disquiet that you feel.
  2. Connect with a trusted confidant to gain an alternative point of view.
  3. Develop a plan to rectify or turnaround the negative, career-ending aspects of the situation.
  4. Design a personal Exit Strategy taking into consideration all of the complexities that accompany developing a business-related Exit Strategy.  Build in expected results, contingencies, milestones and target dates.
  5. Be prepared.  The reasons for the disconnect with the board, the CEO or the new order don’t have to make sense to you.  Termination will happen to the majority of executives more than once in their career.
  6. Develop a ‘multiple revenue streams’ mentality to maintain a certain level of independence from the financial impacts of organizational change.
  7. Early on, design an externally-focused reputation platform so that opportunities come to you versus you having to chase opportunities.
  8. Befriend and assist several executive search firm partners who recruit executives in your career field or industry.  Harvey MacKay aptly named one of his books – Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty!

Questions for you to consider:

  • Are you ignoring early warning signals?
  • Have you developed a bullet-proof, personally-branded external reputation?
  • What is your Exit Strategy?

© All rights reserved.

Christine M. Glasco consults to company executives, business owners and non-profit leaders on strategic leadership and career management/career transformation solutions. For a complimentary copy of Five Tips to Transform Your Executive Career to help you be more effective in your career, go to www.christineglasco.com

Email: info@christineglasco.com Phone: 1.940.367.0837

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5 Responses to The 18 Month Syndrome

  1. […] Tips to Recover After a Major Leadership Career Loss […]

  2. […] When I say they did nothing, that’s not really true. They worked longer hours; they tried harder; they had meetings and discussions with the CEO or Board; they held their tongues; they sometimes spouted the company line – but in the end they were terminated.”  Christine M. Glasco, The 18 Month Syndrome […]

  3. […] When I say they did nothing, that’s not really true. They worked longer hours; they tried harder; they had meetings and discussions with the CEO or Board; they held their tongues; they sometimes spouted the company line – but in the end they were terminated.”  Christine M. Glasco, The 18 Month Syndrome […]

  4. This is a great read! So on target Christine.

    • Christine Glasco says:

      Kim, thanks for the comment. If we would all quiet down and listen to our inner ‘wise one’ we could plan, and then take the actions to make the best STRATEGIC move. Thanks for reading.

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