Sitting On The Side of the Road In The Middle of Nowhere

Sitting On The Side of the Road In The Middle of Nowhere

I’ve invested a lot of years in the business world – through mergers, acquisitions, and downsizings I saw careers that flourished – and a great many more that went off the rails.


Discovering what distinguished the former – and using those lessons gave me guidance on my own path and eventually created the foundation for the book The Compass Solution: A Guide to Winning Your Career – one man’s reflection on a journey I admit I was ill equipped to embark on – until I found markers that changed my trajectory.


When I wrote the book I didn’t appreciate it would come out at the same time that reports would indicate:

  • Employee disengagement in this country and globally is reaching epidemic levels (disengagement, by the way, is the more polished equivalent of burnout)
  • The rising tide of Millennial disenfranchisement would be attracting the attention of all major employers
  • The battle for attracting sustainable employee talent would be reaching crisis levels.


Today, through my company The Compass Alliance I work with a variety of organizations and industries to address each of the above – with a simple manifesto as our guide.

  • The language of business has and always will be some combination of finance and accounting.
  • The mind that informs that language – brand, strategy, and execution.
  • But the heart that propels blood through the body of business is people, leadership, and culture– and yes, many companies…and many careers are suffering from what can only be described as advanced heart disease.


Via executive coaching, training workshops, keynote addresses, and consulting we work to help organizations and their leaders strike (yes) at the heart of the problem.


One resounding message I offer to all – whether a senior executive or a first line employee – I’ve found there are three foundational points that distinguish great careers.




Great companies understand them – great leaders embrace them –

career survivors live them.


No career flourishes unless:


  1. There is a sense of PURPOSE that propels. Most of us first go to work because of extrinsic motivators – paycheck, benefits, title, etc….but the sustainability of these external factors dims with time. Purpose speaks to the “why” of work – and ultimately ties back to intrinsic factors.  For most of us, finding real purpose goes back to 3 things:
    1. Discovering what our Passions in life are
    2. Inventorying and developing the Skills that may help us realize those Passions
    3. Honestly assessing the Opportunities that align points 1 and 2


Purpose is not “hoping to find” – it’s “taking the time” – to self assess and to take action.


I watched scores of employees who literally slept walked through their careers – never truly passionate about anything other than their paycheck. I saw that many more who were unwilling to take stock of their skills – or move to improve them.  Finally, I sometimes worked alongside employees who knew what they wanted but remained blind to the fact that there was NO OPPORTUNITY with their current company to realize their dream.  Like an ice cream vendor in Antarctica they hoped the seasons would change and the skies would warm.


Hope – when it comes to your career – is not a strategy.


Finding your Purpose begins with understanding your Passions. It grows as we build our Skills that align with those passions. But it ONLY takes root when we avail ourselves of the Opportunity to demonstrate those skills and realize our dreams.


  1. Point #2 – so we’re clear on our Purpose. Congratulations, we’re now ahead of 90% of the work force. The second foundational element – a sense of Direction on “how” we realize that purpose. A great many have a clear vision but are unclear on the steps they need to take to realize it.  I sure did. It’s why I ultimately developed the cardinal points that inform The Compass Solution.  Like the stop smoking advertisements of the 70’s and 80’s – “Don’t tell me why I need to stop…show me HOW.”  When we look at the national disengagement numbers – and drill down to the disconnects that often lead to the problems – it’s clear that a great many want and need a GPS….and aren’t finding one.  The notion that “my company” is totally responsible for giving me the map is not only short-sided, it’s downright dangerous.
  2. And the final foundational element – the Practical Tools to make the journey – the “what” for the climb. Again, one of the reasons for my book – and a big part of my company today.


Purpose – Direction – Practical Tools.


So very simple isn’t it?


Here are some facts to ponder as you answer that question:

  • Gallup estimates up to 70% of the U.S. work force is at least somewhat disengaged in their jobs – with some 17.2% “actively disengaged” – wanting “out” and now. Translation – full burnout.
  • The cost of disengagement to our U.S. economy is somewhere between $350 and $450 billion a year. Considering we produce 25% of the Global Gross Domestic Product – a staggering sum.
  • The most afflicted generation – the Millennials – our current and future senior leaders – who will comprise 75% of the work force by 2025.


Purpose – Direction – Practical Tools


We build an organizatiothat understands these basic elements and we lay the foundation for a brighter future.


We cultivate a leadership team that empowers employees to seek out and find these foundational points and we move one step further.


We enlighten our work force – and help enable them in their career journey and we cultivate greatness.


Great companies are built on the shoulders of great careers – not vice versa.


The symbolism the hitchhiker in the picture above represents is very real – alone on the side of the road, alive and suffering in a great many organizations.


“Anywhere but here.”


Hope is not a strategy.



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