By Dr. James Eyring, Chief Operating Officer, Organisation Solutions
Many years ago, Linda Simon and I worked together at Pizza Hut during a spectacular time of growth and transformation for the company and for ourselves. Under David Novak’s leadership, Pizza Hut reinvented its culture and operations, energising employees and reigniting growth. Linda and I worked in the Organization and Management Development Group and helped drive many changes for the company. As PepsiCo spun Pizza Hut, KFC, and Taco Bell off into a separate company, we worked at the forefront of an even larger change to create a new, successful company.
One late afternoon, I dropped by Linda’s office to visit, and she was not quite her normal, energetic self. It turns out that she was considering her next role in the company and was not excited with either option in front of her. I was a little surprised because we had both grown so much in the past few years. We had great projects in the spin-off that positively impacted hundreds of thousands of employees. We were stretched, promoted, and had the opportunity to shape an entire company. I asked her what she wanted in her next role and she said simply: “I want a job that scares me.”
She wanted a job that stretched her so much that she was not sure she could succeed. She wanted a job that would force her to develop new capabilities and have an even greater impact. At the time, her comments surprised me. No career advice, research, or book I had ever read (or have since read) suggested that you be afraid of your next job.
Linda ultimately decided to leave Pizza Hut and went on to become VP of Organization Effectiveness for AOL. She became a senior HR leader in Marriott, DirectTV, AT&T, and Walmart. Now, she is the CHRO for start-up Beautycounter.
I remembered her advice when I decided to move to Asia without a job. I remembered it as I joined Ingram Micro, leading regional HR for the first time. I remembered it when I joined Dell in Asia, at a time when the company was tripling the size of its business. I especially remembered her comments when I decided to join Organisation Solutions as an external consultant. This job continued to stretch me as a consultant, with different types of clients, as a product developer, and as COO of a growing company.
More importantly, I have shared Linda’s advice with others. As a leader and mentor, I shared her advice with employees who were unsure of their next move, and as an Executive Coach, I have shared her advice to encourage leaders to stretch themselves into big, new roles to have a greater impact in their companies.
Just recently, two individuals came back to me and told me that this was some of the best career advice that anyone had given them. Both had taken steps into risky jobs that were helping them grow and transform themselves as they worked to grow and transform their companies.
This advice is not just for individuals. Companies that are growing fast or turning around their business should take advantage of the same philosophy. Give leaders big, scary jobs that will stretch their capabilities. This will allow them to significantly impact the company in the short-term while preparing them for bigger roles in future.
So, next time you are thinking of taking (or giving someone) a new role, step back from thinking about the job’s level, salary, and benefits. Put that aside and ask yourself: Does this job scare me? If it doesn’t, don’t take the job. If it does, take it! Regardless of the risks, you will grow and develop and, hopefully, have more impact than you ever thought possible.
Thanks, Linda, for unintentionally sharing some great career advice! You have helped other leaders make great decisions to grow and transform themselves because of it.
Dr. James Eyring is the Chief Operating Officer of Organisation Solutions. James has more than 25 years of experience in the field of Organisational Development, specialising in large-scale organisation design and change, leadership development, and the design and management of distributed organisations. Contact James