Who Leads the Executives When They Struggle With Their Careers? - Dawid Wiacek
Being a corporate executive is nothing but glitz and glamour all day long.
You kick up your feet in a sleek, expansive penthouse office and bark out orders to everyone below, right?
I’ve talked to enough C-level clients to know better. Sure, 6 or 7-figure salaries are great and wielding real decision-making power can be intoxicating, but those at the top rungs of corporations often deal with stressors not considered and never experienced by the average worker.
So, when their own careers are in jeopardy, where do executives turn?
For every benefit of an executive’s life, there is probably an equal and opposite cost.
Stress is often amplified by being in the public eye as corporate ambassadors, taking the heat for mistakes they didn’t always make, responsible for hundreds if not thousands of livelihoods, executives sometimes feel they can’t complain about their internal struggles -- or if they do, it tends to fall on deaf ears. Their direct reports, their spouses, their less-successful or equally-stressed friends? Not interested!
In fact, some folks have zero sympathy, even thinking it comical that any executive, having achieved wealth and the pinnacle of professional success, would ever complain about their own career
Yet, this demographic is the bread and butter of my coaching practice: accomplished professionals who are nonetheless unfulfilled, confused, or downright miserable in their jobs or, worse, their career arcs.
As a career coach, my job is simple: to help clients find more fulfilling and often better-paying jobs. This is not terribly difficult for entry-level or middle managers who have ample room for professional growth, but what is an executive to do when there’s no clear path for upward movement?
It really can be a lonely place at the top of the corporate mountain. Most executives I work with are ambitious and assertive creatures. They don’t readily admit fault and are unlikely to seek help when deeper problems take root – whether it be job dissatisfaction or clinical depression.
Even as mental health awareness seems to be at an all-time high, the higher echelons of the corporate ladder resist showing vulnerability, lest it be construed as weakness, both internally and by external vultures (competitors or the media).
Coaching, and especially executive coaching, is more than remedial –it’s about expanding and elevating mindsets, relationships and workflows to give companies an edge in an ever-evolving, highly competitive landscape.
Sometimes brand-new clients will call me seeking executive coaching, but when I listen to their plight, it becomes clear that no amount of coaching will make them happy at their current company. They’ve passed the point of no return and what they need is a career coach or, more directly, a career change.
However, as executives, they’re not accustomed to quitting and certainly not used to people below them suggesting that they change course.
An executive who is feeling career angst has essentially 3 options:
(1) quit / find another job
(2) stay and do nothing (a.k.a. continue complaining)
(3) stay and transform their mindset and behaviour.
I help my clients fully appreciate the pitfalls of each course of action:
(1) If a client quits, whether out of desperation or poor planning and opts for a similarly ill-suited job, we’re back at square one. If they switch careers, they might experience a steep learning curve and find themselves ill-fitted; or they might experience a renaissance and thrive in their new career, given enough hard work, passion and a dash of good luck.
(2) If a client feels stuck and stays put, the problems persist and sometimes worsen with time, usually due to increased resentment of self or others in the company.
(3) If a client stays and attempts to improve their perception, some things might improve such as more effective leadership, higher team morale, productivity improvements, etc.
However, my clients are usually burned out or have made many costly mistakes up until this point, so this mindset transformation becomes an uphill struggle.
Alternately, the executive tries a bastardized “Zen-like” approach and stops caring altogether, which usually ends badly for the client and/or the company.
Executives often want data to power their decisions, but one’s own career is a very personal, occasionally illogical -- and for some, even bordering on spiritual -- journey.
Clients sometimes ask me what I might do in their situation, and I generally deflect that question (truthfully, I’m not attracted to the headaches of executive life, so I’d probably quit and start a chicken farm).
We don’t need studies to tell us that happy and healthy leaders make fewer mistakes and build happy, healthy companies.
Often, I’ll recommend trying something radically different, just to recalibrate their brains and get them thinking creatively about the challenges ahead: for some clients, it’s a week-long yoga retreat or a month-long sabbatical to visit distant lands or return to their hometown after many years away.
For others, it’s finally taking up that long-dreamed-about hobby or completing a college course -- if only to take one’s mind off the daily stresses of executive life and have
some fun. In much the same way that, if I’m
feeling stuck with a crossword puzzle, I go for a run or tend to my vegetable garden and then, just like that, the
solution comes to me – it was in my head all along.
Dawid (David) Wiacek
Part certified career coach (CPCC) and part resume writer, he specializes in mid-level and senior-level clientele, helping unfulfilled and ambitious professionals find more meaningful, better-paying work.
Leveraging years of experience in human resources, training and development, recruiting, and copywriting, David designs realistic job search strategies and crafts powerful portfolios to help clients land interviews, earn promotions, negotiate higher salaries, switch careers, and develop key skill sets that drive professional development.
Based in New York, David has travelled to 33 countries and has tried just about every exotic food you can think of.
He has an undergraduate degree in psychology from Wesleyan University and professional training through the American Management Association and the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.
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