Most of us stay pretty tight in our normal rut. Here is an example of how being open to learning and experiencing new things may help you discover unexpected opportunities.

November 2004
A Relationship Story – Trust Your Gut and Grow Out of Your Rut

In asking me to find ideal fit talent for them, two of my clients, Shea Homes and Snyder Langston, each specifically asked me to include a special characteristic in the criteria for their team’s new talent – they must demonstrate a passion for continuous learning. Now this obviously is intuitive good sense, but I know from my own corporate experience how easy it is to stay in the world our job defines for us – to try to become perfect at the things we have to do. Yes I know it’s true that we are often incentivized to be great as specialists, but aren’t we missing a huge growth opportunity offered by breaking new ground? The priority on learning emphasized by my clients reminded me of a learning experience I had that led to an unexpected and highly beneficial opportunity. I thought it might make you think about whether you are trusting your instincts and taking advantage of your own breakthrough learning opportunities.

After I had decided to quit my job in 2002 after 23 years, and before I decided that a new career as a consultant with McDermott & Bull would be this much fun, I took the opportunity to check out something that had always fascinated me. I always thought there was no product more tangible and powerful than what the building industry created. I was curious about an industry that made such a lasting impact in our world and in our lives, while much else in our lives is so shallow and transitory. I realized also that one of my most charismatic, dynamic, and respected friends had been enjoying a wonderful career in this business – Charlie Spencer leads the Electrical Division for Dynalectric. I saw an opportunity to trust my instincts and investigate an industry that had always intrigued me, and to see it through the eyes of a trusted friend who loved what he did for a living.

I asked Charlie to let me spend a day with him in his world, purely in the interest of learning, and without any specific objective beyond that. Charlie was extremely gracious, and had me ride along all day with him visiting the amazing construction projects where he and his team were contributing. I discovered an extraordinary world of complexity and intricacy, of commitment to performance discipline, safety and quality. I also discovered a unique leadership challenge – juggling scarce and unpredictable resources under oppressive environmental and political constraints, and all subject to the tightest of fiscal and schedule demands. I gained a real appreciation for success as a builder, and the special people involved in that success.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that a few months later, when evaluating the industries that I could help in my executive search consultancy, I found the building industry to be a perfect fit. Because I took advantage of an opportunity to investigate something that had always intrigued me, I was able to recognize the great business opportunity the building industry could offer me.

While it’s hard to break away from the constant demands of your regular grind, ask yourself if there aren’t things that you intuitively know make good sense to explore, and give yourself a chance to test your instincts. You just never know what it might mean for you. I would love to hear your stories about similar experiences.

Links: Shea Homes LC, Snyder Langston, Dynalectric


Jeff Black
Principal Consultant
McDermott & Bull Executive Search