Leaders grow and develop at different paces. Sometimes we evolve quickly in a season, other times our growth seems to slow. At some point in our professional lives, we’re going to find ourselves out of sync with our team or our role. How you handle circumstances when you realize you don’t “fit” can make or break your credibility. There is the opportunity to learn important lessons from this experience.
Recognizing you’re an outlier isn’t joyful, yet your ability to notice when you don’t fit is a powerful indicator of your self-awareness – a key trait the best leaders cultivate.When you realize you’re in the wrong role at the wrong time, it’s easy to believe the only thing to do is to quit, change, or shift. While that might be your preferred course of action, you often don’t have the luxury of vacating the position as soon as you’d like. You might have bills to pay, a project that you need to see through, or too many people counting on you to follow through.
Here are three things you can do when you’re not where you want to be and you can’t leave fast enough:
Shift your focus to sustaining versus succeeding. When you’re in the wrong role, it’s tempting to try harder, convince yourself that you must do more, or attempt to achieve greater results. When the fit is off this only leads to more frustration. Step back from the intensity and dial down your efforts to help you survive the emotional drain of being in the wrong role. Give yourself space. Use your energy to deepen your efforts with a nonprofessional priority or spend time developing or learning—seek activities that nourish you outside of your current role.
Channel your suffering into service. When we take pride as professionals, being in a role that doesn’t match our talents or in working in an environment that’s disconnected from our values causes us to suffer. We know we are suffering when our frustration at work takes away our life’s joy. Don’t ignore these tough emotions. Acknowledge your pain, but don’t let it paralyze your leadership. Consider it a call to action to support others. Take time to listen to your colleagues. Encourage other’s success. Understand and work to meet the needs of your team. An outward focus soothes internal frustration.
Plan your escape, making sure to level up. Being in a role that’s less than best comes with a unique silver lining – you learn more about what really is yours to do and the talents you have. Don’t tolerate a poor fit forever. Think, reflect, and develop a plan to transition in a responsible manner. With this plan, hold yourself accountable to learning how the poor fit happened and understanding what a better fit for you looks like.
Life, leadership, and success are journeys. The best leaders are always developing.