Victor Goodcoat knew he had a problem. Sure— he may have been a principal at Honest Engineers for the last ten years but things weren’t like they used to be. Clients weren’t calling and he found himself being less and less often drawn into projects by other staff members. And the bottom line was this: Victor, although only 49 years old, was at some point going to be in danger of losing his job. Because in spite of the fact that Honest Engineers was a laid back company that didn’t even hold its principals accountable for performance in any specific way, Victor knew at some point, the other partners would get tired of carrying him, especially John Sarcastion, the firm’s Phoenix office manager and its best seller of work. He needed to get his stuff together and go through a rebirth of sorts. He wasn’t quite sure where to start but over time developed a good plan that got him back on track, feeling better, and much more valued by his clients, peers, and co-workers. Here’s some of what he did:Started working on his health. It was just a little bit at a time. But he went on long walks, did crunches, and dusted off his old weight set so he could do some repetitions. He also changed his diet (less donuts and BBQ; more salads) and got more sleep at night (turned off the TV and didn’t watch the local 11 o’clock news.)Cultivated more friendships. These friendships were with people both inside and outside of the company. When he looked back on what made him successful in his younger days, Goodcoat saw that he had been a good friend to many people. Being a good friend meant that he had to initiate contact, and he had to be a good listener. So part of the turnaround meant making attempts to reach out to old and new friends alike. The result was many old friendships were rekindled and new ones were started. And while some of those were with people who gave work to the firm, others were with people who were essential to getting the work of the firm produced. Worked on his public speaking. That involved a lot of things, from being better prepared when he was giving a planned talk, to not flying off the handle in meetings. Both a lack of planning and a short temper worked against Goodcoat’s ability to get his ideas across in public. He learned to count to ten, real slow, before he reacted to anything. And he took toastmasters class as well as a three-hour public speaking course at night at a local junior college. Made himself more available to clients and employees. The erosion in his availability, like that of many principal level design professionals, had been insidious. He had gotten to the point to where his secretary was prescreening more of his calls and she had even gone as far as returning his e-mails! This didn’t work and cut off Goodcoat from everyone. He took back the responsibility for all of his own communications and started using his secretary to do other higher level work.The combination of all of these things effectively resuscitated Goodcoat’s career with Honest Engineers. He felt good about his contributions and most importantly, got back to earning his keep once again.What do you think? Have you or anyone you know gotten out of the game, yet are still showing up for every practice? Maybe it’s time to take action. E-mail me with your thoughts.Originally published 4/22/2002
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