Not so long I ago I was a General Manager at one of New Zealand's Government Agencies. Apparently I had made it. I had aspired to be a General Manager for a number of years and now here I was - people reporting to me, a few million in the annual budget under my watch, great team, decent salary, leading national programmes.
All sounding good? Well not really. Because I didn't FEEL it. My usual sniff test is pretty reliable, that being to run a quick scan the very moment I opened my eyes in bed in the morning. How do I feel? A sense of tingling satisfaction, stretching with energy, a mindful and still sense of well-being, jumping-out-bed-raring-to-go . . . ? No - none of these, well anyway not nearly enough.
I felt, at my very core, this just wasn't me. The culture of the place was far away from that which I had always aspired to, I felt responsible for keeping people happy (as opposed to being in an environment where they could easily do that themselves). I felt disengaged and slightly powerless to make a difference. And, to be honest, I think my intuition had told me this at the time I made the decision to join the organisation.
So I was faced with a choice. Start slowly to look around for another opportunity, similar role and pay . . . OR go out contracting. Going back to making things happen. Building stuff, getting my hands dirty, building culture within a project environment, short and sharp and meaningful.
The problem was, to do the latter I would need to resign with nothing to go to. Contract work relies on people being available at short notice. It often comes up, particularly change management projects, when things aren't going to plan and the business needs to quickly turn stuff around. If you need to arrange a few weeks notice with your employer, you can forget about it. I also had a mortgage (still do) and responsibilities as the bread winner of the family.
To cut a long story short, I woke up one morning and scanned my body a different way. I asked myself - is this the right thing for me? I went into work, handed in my notice and communicated my decision to the team. Hardest thing to do. I cried a bit that day. But that decision was also one of the best I have ever made. I went from being unhappy and powerless one day to feeling energised and powerful the next. I had done what, to many, might seem foolhardy, but to me seemed absolutely 100% right.
Three years later, i am leading my second major change programme in the public sector. I have met and worked with some amazing people, had the privileged opportunity to change culture from within, achieved some stuff people thought couldn't be done. And had a pretty darn good time. Oh and I have earned more money than my GM days - thats worth mentioning but not as important to me as the other stuff I mentioned earlier.
So I guess I followed my intuition three years ago. I am not sure about the "fearlessly" bit, but it certainly wasn't without some trepidation on my part. I listened to me soul and did what I felt was the right thing. And it all worked out.
And it always will . . . .