A few months ago I was in her office talking about my HR coaching program. She was super excited about the possibility of working with me.
I am a strong observer and started asking her some questions. First I noticed how blank the walls were. When I asked how long the company had been in these offices she told me five years. “Not big on culture here… are they” Sarah replied, “no, the CEO is absent and CFO that runs this office isn’t much of a culture guy.”
Upon further questioning I learned that her company was VC financed and rapidly growing. They grew from under 300 employees when she joined to now over 800 three years later. I asked if it was the largest company she had ever worked at and she said “yes”. I asked if the CFO or anyone else expressed concern she did not have experience running a larger HR organization and she said they had not.
I also learned through my interview she was a single mom and maintaining job security was a major concern.
I then asked Sarah if she realized how “fragile” she was in her current circumstances. When she asked what I meant, I told her I thought she was in a vulnerable spot. I suggested she start taking her resume for a spin. If I knew her better I would’ve asked if she had 4 to 6 months of savings available in case she ever lost her job. I hope she did.
We left the meeting agreeing that she would talk to the CFO about coaching with me. That was on a Friday.
The following Monday after returning from lunch I noticed Sarah sent me an email. Here’s what she wrote:
Don, I don’t know if you are prophetic or scary. I can’t believe what happened to me this morning. The CFO came to my office and said I was going to be replaced by a younger HR executive with experience working at a startup firm that had grown rapidly and is now a larger firm than ours. He also told me he didn’t know how to coach me well and he needed somebody that was a self-starter (Whatever that means!).
Needless to say I am floored. He wants me to help train my replacement. What can I do? Can I talk to you?
Sorry to have to bother you with this, Sarah.
That’s what I call being fragile.
Sara thought she had job security… until the day she did not. She didn’t see it coming…and she was a bright dedicated professional. I know this: Sarah never properly expressed her value to the company. She was unprepared and fragile in her circumstances and didn’t even know it!
My belief is this – if you do what I suggest in this program and your company doesn’t acknowledge your awesomeness- then you take that opportunity to somebody who will.
You owe it to yourself, and your career, and your family.