Curated Leadership for Today's World

is your career lost in the bermuda triangle?

Posted on 23 January 2012

bermuda_triangle1Do you find yourself lost, adrift or even facing a mutiny at work? Do you fear your bosses are about ready to make you walk the plank and feed you to the sharks?  Did you begin your voyage sure of your destination only to find out something strange, perhaps even alien, has completely thrown you towards a cursed course? Never fear mate, it’s happened to me several times and you can navigate out of it.

Every employee, unless they are self-employed, finds themselves in a triangle comprised of employee needs, customer demands, and corporate or shareholder expectations. Successfully navigating this triangle is a juggling act even for the most seasoned sailor. And although these three things should be in perfect harmony to optimize smooth sailing towards performance and profits, many times they are not.

You can see this disaster looming on the horizon and steer clear before you embark on your professional voyage. Red skies in the morning, sailors take warning. Before you accept the helm in a new organization, consider this: Why wasn’t there someone already onboard ready to be promoted? This should serve as a huge warning shot across the bow.

I was flattered to be the one brought in from the outside who could trim the sails and get everyone rowing together, but the fact was I was about to be fed to the sharks.  Unless the entire organization from the very top down is being revamped, don’t let your ego sail towards this mirage. You will be saddled with swabbing up the current regime’s mess while they are still onboard. And eventually you’ll swab the toes of the sailors who enabled it and, in some cases, condoned it.

It’s intoxicating to take on the challenge of running a ship, but sooner or later there will be a time when you’ll be viewed as a threat. After all, if the powers that be couldn’t or wouldn’t do it and you do, that doesn’t bode well for them, at least in their stormy minds. If the existing leadership was really doing their job, they wouldn’t need someone from the outside to come in and do their housecleaning. Keeping the personnel pipeline brimming with new and productive talent while grooming the existing crew to take over the helm is what they are paid to do.

But, my fellow seafarers, I’ve sailed in and out of these waters many times and lived to tell the tale. In fact, they are some of the salty sea scars I’m most proud of. Just be advised that the end result will always be the same. You come in, you enforce the standards, you take care of the people by flushing out the negative and counterproductive, you make the customer a raving fan, and all of a sudden you’re lost in the fog and unable to get clear communication from the admiral.

After my fourth trip to the triangle, I remember calling my father and asking him why this kept happening. He said, “You can work for yourself or you can work for someone. As long as you are working for someone, this will always happen.” Argh, truer words were never spoken. So if you find yourself without a corporate lifeline, a loss of compass directions from the client, or the rats taking over the ship, don’t walk the plank. You’ve taken this rickety vessel as far as she will go so bring yourself back to safe harbor and get ready to sail a strong, sturdy ship with your own name on the bow. Aye aye, captain!!

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2 comments

  • traceyjones: February 20, 2016

    Thanks! Yes, the old Bermuda Triangle. Sure miss all those weird things we used to hear about growing up:-) Glad to hear you survived your time at sea as well Mark!

  • Mark Armstrong: February 20, 2016

    Aye-aye, skipper— you’ve said a mouthful! Love the Bermuda Triangle analogy.

    I taught math for a year once— that’s what’s known as being lost in the Isosceles Triangle!! : P

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