UK: WHAT'S YOUR PROBLEM?

UK: WHAT'S YOUR PROBLEM? - THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT

by JEREMY BULLMORE, former chairman of J Walter Thompson, is now adirector of Guardian Media Group and WPP.
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT

I am beginning to realise that my recent job move has been a bad one.

But, if I try to cut my losses by applying elsewhere, my CV may look 'butterfly' to other potential employers, because I was head-hunted from my previous job within six months. My old job has been filled. What should I do?

I wonder why you left your previous job after only six months? Simply to say you were head-hunted suggests you have no will of your own. You must have liked the job well enough - you imply you'd go back if the job was still open - so what went on? Was it just money? Or vanity? Were you competing with someone? Or did you think that all promotion was good promotion?

Before you make your next decision, sort out the reasons for your last one - as honestly as you can. It won't stop you making another mistake, but it might stop you making the same one again.

Next: how certain are you that your new job really is a disaster? If you were head-hunted, you were probably subjected to a comprehensive snow job. So it's entirely possible that if you weren't still making unfavourable comparisons between the job as you found it and its romanticised prospectus, you'd be perfectly happy: at least for long enough to escape any butterfly accusations.

But if, after all this, you're still convinced the job is not for you, then the sooner you pack up your pencil case the better - as long as you march off in the right direction. And that, of course, presents you with a problem: it might take as much as a year to find what you want. So I suggest that your first action should be to register your interest in moving with a head-hunter (though not, obviously, the one who got you into all this). They may or may not deliver the goods - but the real value of this move is that it allows you to demonstrate in future interviews that you did recognise your mistake immediately.

I'll resist the temptation say that you'd better get it right this time.

I expect you've thought of that yourself.

OVERSEAS ANGST

I have been offered a three-year posting to head my company's South American operations. But I must consider my children's schooling, the fact that none of my family speak Spanish and that we shall need a bodyguard at all times. How do I explain to the satisfaction of my employers that I am dedicated to the company but cannot ignore my family's needs?

Every instinct tells me that you don't really want to do it anyway. I'm sure your concerns for family are genuine enough - but you show none of the normal signs of being torn between your own personal excitement at the prospect of the job and your family's wellbeing. So if you secretly don't much want it (for whatever reason) and you also have serious doubts about its consequences for your family, then at least the decision is an easy one - even if conveying it to your company is not.

What I suggest you say is something like this: 'The job's a big one and I'm thrilled to have been offered it. To do it well, I'd need to be totally confident and totally committed. Because of my family, I don't think I could be - and that would be unfair on the company. I'm sure you understand.'

But just before you say that: are you sure you're making the right decision?

Three years is not a lifetime. Do you know what your family really feels - or are you making assumptions? You must have friends or colleagues out there already: have you spoken to them? Of course it would be strange and challenging - and there would certainly be many hairy moments. But it could be a hugely stimulating and formative three years for all of you.

CHOOSE TO TRUST

I want to take on a graduate trainee and have a pile of applications, which all seem good on paper. The obvious thing would be to interview them but I am rushed off my feet. I could entrust the task to one of my managers but I'm worried in case they choose the wrong person. What should I do?

Well, fancy. Seldom has the description of a problem more clearly contained the evidence of its cause. Why do you suppose you're rushed off your feet?

Might it just have something to do with the fact that you don't trust your managers to manage?

And who picked them, by the way? If it was you, why did you pick people you now don't trust to pick people?

Take a deep breath - and start teaching yourself to trust. You'll hate it to start with, and the Almighty will certainly come up with a couple of early disasters to test your resolve; but it will soon get better, I promise.

On the graduate trainee: you should ask your managers to interview them all - each candidate to be seen by two managers - and to agree between themselves on a shortlist of three. These are the only applicants you see. You and your managers then confer and agree on the lucky winner. In the event of a split, the casting vote is yours.

An important bonus: because your managers have been actively involved in the selection process, they will want to help their choice be successful.

Come on, now. I'm sure you can do it. Why not start on Monday?

Please address your problems to him at: Management Today, 174 Hammersmith Road, London W67JP.

Or e-mail: management.today@haynet.com Regrettably no correspondence can be entered into.

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