The Person Writing on the Whiteboard Has the Eraser!

Accountability Management Organizational leadership


Key Point: Please be aware that your and my name is on a whiteboard, either literally or figuratively. And the person writing on the whiteboard has the eraser. If you are an employee, your boss (if he or she is doing their job effectively) is evaluating whether you and I are the right fit. This may not happen daily, but it is occurring a heck of a lot more often than yearly. Why? It is not personal (although the outcome for you and me is), but business models are changing so rapidly that job roles and priority business requirements are doing the same. Yours and my skill set might have been the perfect match yesterday but is it as valuable today?

Recently, an executive friend of mine, who is the CEO of a privately owned business, sent me a picture of a whiteboard in his office. This person was going through an exercise determining what was required for the business, matching the key individuals/roles on his/her executive team with what was needed to accelerate the organization. On the whiteboard were the names of people who were great matches for the next 12 to 24 months, those that were question marks, and those (unknowingly to them) who were going to be asked to leave.

All of those folks who were going to be terminated, at one time were perfect matches for what the company needed, and assessed as high performing. But their micro world changed faster than they did. So what does this mean to you and me? We can never get complacent about job security. There is literally no such thing these days in the hyper competitive, global marketplace, and none of us can believe we are indispensable. This can be disconcerting or freeing. Let’s focus on the latter. Think of yourself as a valuable free agent in the marketplace, on an ever renewable, daily contract with your current employer or customers.

Character Moves:

  1. Recognize that no (or very few) organizations can sincerely offer long-term job security. You and I are more responsible than ever for ensuring WE have job security based on the attributes and skills we have and are continuously developing, rather than the security offered by the company we keep. Think of yourself as a growing, ever improving artisan/expert rather than an employee. Love the company you’re with, but recognize that the relationship is based on your value today and potential for tomorrow. Not what you did yesterday. Seniority means almost nothing.
  2. Face the fact that you and I have our literal names written up on a whiteboard, restructure document, etc. all the time for “keeping,” “developing.” or “removing.” And do not take it personally or feel offended. That’s just the way it is. The assessments will happen in rapidly increasing time intervals. Our self-accountable responsibility is agility through growing our marketable skills and attributes. This doesn’t mean living in the shadow of insecurity. On the contrary, it is living and working, with “eyes wide open.” No fear because we put ourselves in control.
  3. Work for an organization committed to growing your personal equity (rather than implying or hinting at job security). In reciprocation to bringing your best contribution to the company, you need to come out “richer” the other side of employment. If the company culturally cares about you, the system (your boss and others) will invest in you and support you investing in yourself. You should have opportunities to grow financially, experientially, in relationships, wellness, and more. One day you will leave (on your or the organization’s terms), confident you will be more valuable than ever in the broader market place when you go.
  4. If you have not developed and increased your market place value in the last 12 months, proactively plan to get out of your situation ASAP. Don’t be dumb through avoidance. You are likely being employed as a commodity rather than as a growing, valuable asset and therefore you will be replaced by technology, or someone less expensive/easier to get along with, etc. sooner than later. You need to move with the needs of the company and to be of continuous value. If not, know you have added to your equity for participation in the broader market place. You must proactively be holistically richer today than when you joined your employer! (This applies to entrepreneurs too… Some competitor wants to dislocate you… So while you may not have a “boss,” the same pressures apply to you and the value proposition of your company). Grow your equity or go somewhere where you can. You and I must. We are worth it!

Always on the whiteboard in the Triangle,