How Do You Know When It’s Time to Go?
Let’s say you’ve been CEO at the association for a few years, you’re three months into the term of a new chairperson and you know that you’re not going to be able to develop a true partnership.
Change the titles, and the situation could exist anywhere in an organization’s leadership. Nothing’s acutely wrong. In fact, the association may be hitting it’s goals. But nothing’s especially right, either. Innovation and change are in short supply.
Is that scenario a reason to leave?
Making The Decision
Maybe. And maybe not.
In deciding whether or not to leave, you need to step back from the immediate frustration or concern and look at the bigger picture. Ultimately, you need to ask yourself some tough questions, be truthful in your answers and be willing to accept them.
Even if there are no specific events that set off alarm bells, you should periodically engage in an honest assessment and explore whether or not it is time to leave.
As a CEO, one question I asked myself each year was, do I really have what it takes — the knowledge, ability and attitude — to continue to advance the organization, or are circumstances such that someone else might be able to do a better job? The fact is that you may very well have the knowledge and ability, but circumstances beyond your control may preclude you from advancing the organization. And, don’t under value attitude. If you don’t have the passion, life is too short to stay.
Of course, there are other signs that it may be time to leave. For example, if you experience a decline in respect from some board members (or other colleagues), find your impatience growing or if it is getting harder and harder to sell your ideas, the time may be right to move on.
Equally important, if you are becoming stagnant and feel as though you can’t continue to learn, grow and be challenged, it might be time to leave. And, if you are consistently unhappy, stressed and/or negative, you owe it to yourself to seriously consider change. The question is, do you need to recalibrate internally or do you need to change jobs? Only you know the answer.
Develop a Plan
You don’t have to wait for these signs and symptoms to surface before seriously considering an exit.
In fact, it’s important that you proactively develop a plan for your career growth and happiness. If you don’t, no one else will. Take a moment — preferably today — and reflect on where you want to be in three or five years, and then create a personal strategy to get there. Do so even if you love your job and are having the time of your life. Circumstances and personnel change.
Of course, unless you are financially well-off, you won’t be able to leave until you have another opportunity. Hopefully, you’ve focused on continually developing your network throughout your career. Yet even if you have, it will most likely take a while to find the ideal opportunity.
During this time you have a choice: you can choose to be happy and continue to grow or you can choose to be unhappy. Go to work each day with the goal of learning something new. Make a commitment to not let others control your feelings. Identify some projects that you would enjoy working on and where you know you can make a difference, and delegate the other stuff.
And, remember Winston Churchill’s words: “Destiny is not a matter of chance, it’s a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.”
Robert Nelson is a Certified Association Executive with more than 25 years of experience in a not-for-profit setting. He is the former president and CEO of the National Coffee Association, and now heads Nelson Strategic Consulting.