Due to the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the restaurant industry, one of my coaching clients, Alex, who served as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) in a regional chain of 24 diners in the Northeast US, wanted to explore switching her career to a different industry.
Alex turned to me as her executive coach and asked for my guidance in early March, before the pandemic fully hit. I recommended a 5-step decision-making process to her that addresses the dangerous judgment errors we make called cognitive biases, and coached her through the process to help her make the wisest and most profitable decision.
Step 1: Identify the need to launch a decision-making process and gather relevant information from a wide variety of informed perspectives on the issue at hand.
Alex had already decided to evaluate the decision to switch to another role and industry, so we were able to proceed with this step immediately. I asked her to gather information from a wide variety of people with relevant perspectives.
Step 2: With the data gathered, decide the goals you want to reach and develop a clear decision-making process criteria to weigh the various options of how you’d like to get to your vision. Rank the importance of each criteria on a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high).
With the data she had on hand, I asked Alex to come up with a list of critical goals, which should address underlying issues as well.
Among the goals identified were:
- To make sure that within a year, she had a role that would pay her at least 75% of the salary that she was getting as COO of the restaurant chain, whether by staying at the chain or switching to another industry, per her accountant’s guidance
- To ensure that she had substantial room for career growth if she did make the switch
- Alex wanted to step into a role that was conducive to innovation.
Alex then came up with a number of criteria relevant for the switch and ranked them on her priorities, with 1 at the low end and 10 at the high end:
- Innovation opportunity (5)
- Stability for the industry and the company in the foreseeable medium and long-term future (7)
Step 3: Generate a number of options that can achieve your decision-making process goals. Go for 5 options as the minimum. Weigh these options, picking the best of the bunch. When weighing options, beware of going with your initial preferences.
Initially, Alex listed just one option for switching: it was obvious that she was already leaning towards the food delivery industry. However, I convinced her to add 3 more options so that she will have 5 at the minimum. She took a bit more time deliberating and finally came up with 5 options:
- Stay in her current position
At this point, Alex was still leaning towards her favored option, which was to shift to the food delivery industry. However, I cautioned her to consider each one carefully. We went together through each option, and she ranked each option on each criteria variable. To do so, we made a table with options on the left and variables on the top. Then, after ranking each option on the relevant criteria, we multiplied the ranking by the weight of the criteria.
||Room for growth(6)
||Ease of transition(5)
Alex was surprised that the grocery store option came out as the best option. That’s because grocery stores boomed due to the pandemic and were hiring both workers and executives left and right.
Step 4: Implement the option you chose. First, imagine the decision completely fails and brainstorm for the reasons for the failure.
Next, consider how you might solve these problems, and integrate the solutions into your implementation plan.
Then, imagine the decision succeeded. Brainstorm all the reasons for success and integrate these to the plan as well.
Alex imagined that the switch to the grocery store industry failed because of her lack of a proper network to source for job opportunities and her unwillingness to step down to a lower-ranking role.
To address these, she decided to spend a month growing her network so that she could make new contacts. Alex also decided to get in touch with former colleagues and mentors who had stepped down from top leadership roles to get their insight on what they learned from the experience.
Finally, when she imagined that the decision to shift to a new role and industry was a success, she determined that this was largely due to her efforts to efficiently transition to her new role and industry by building new core skills.
Step 5: Evaluate the implementation of the decision. Develop clear metrics of success that you can measure throughout the implementation process. Check in regularly and revise as needed.
Alex was able to successfully shift industries. Within six weeks, she was able to get into a large grocery chain as Senior Vice President of Prepared Foods. While it was a step down from her role as COO, she was able to get a compensation package that was 85% of what she received as COO in her former company, owing to the fact that she had joined a much larger organization in a booming industry.
She decided on the following as her metrics of success:
- Expand her network by adding 6 contacts/month specifically from the grocery store industry
- Identify and work on 4 core skills that she needed in order to thrive in her new role and industry
- Develop mentors within this new industry
Your career growth shouldn’t take a backseat during this pandemic! When job hunting, be ready to network intensively and develop new skills.
ExecuNet VIPs can watch the author’s recorded ExecuNet Master Class, How to Avoid Disasters in Managing Your Career.
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