Are You Planted in the Right Pot?

by William S. Frank, President/CEO of CareerLab®

OUTPLACEMENT is the business of helping people losing their jobs to be re-employed. Sometimes it’s done one-on-one, sometimes in groups. I’ve done onesie-twosies and worked in 5,000-person layoffs.
This time I was called to a medical device manufacturing company where the Vice President of Manufacturing was failing in her job and would be terminated. In describing Karen, her boss’ comments were bleak:
“She has no leadership skills, her people don’t like her. She bucks processes and procedures and misses deadlines. I can’t say enough bad things about her. I think she’s virtually unemployable.”
This was a sobering appraisal. When I met Karen, I disregarded that and sought to know her personally. We began with an autobiography and I learned about her life. She completed paper-and-pencil exercises, as well as The Birkman Method, an online questionnaire. The Birkman is the blood test, X-Ray, CT Scan, and MRI for careers. It painted a clear picture of her strengths, needs, and stress behaviors.
We rolled all this together into a picture of her ideal job. It turns out that Karen was a helping, caring person who needed to be working in a doing-good environment. Medical device companies “do good,” but they are hurry-up, get-stuff-done places. Karen needed a more helping, supportive, nurturing culture, and a slower pace.
We created a marketing plan, and she accepted an offer to be the Executive Director of her city’s largest hospice, a non-profit dedicated to end-of-life care.
I called Karen two weeks after she began the new assignment to see how she was doing, and she startled me by saying
“This job is perfect! I can’t believe what it’s like to walk in the front door and have people actually glad to see me.”
That was a 180-degree turnaround from hugely-criticized to highly-prized.
I call that effect “Being planted in the right pot.” If you take an orchid and plant it under the glass at the botanic gardens, it thrives. If you plant it in the 115-degree desert in Phoenix, it shrivels and dies.
People are like that, too. They thrive or die depending upon their environment. Karen wasn’t unemployable as her boss had suggested. She simply needed to be transplanted into the right pot.