The Decision to Move On – Weekend Reflections for Leaders: November 24, 2018

In today’s business environment the war for top talent is real and with a supposed 60%+ of people in US companies actively job-hunting, the challenge to build thriving, engaged teams is enormous for senior executives.

I have made the decision to move on to other roles a few times in my career and I am asked quite often for career advice around is it worth leaving a steady job to pursue something different or when is the right time to leave, etc. The topic for this Weekend Reflections for Leaders is focused on providing a few thoughts on what becomes a very complex and personal decision to move on from a company and/or a career.

The decision to move on. When someone feels that first itch to considering moving on, it is important to understand the reason for the search. Here are a few potential reasons people have shared with me:

  • Limited opportunity for movement into new roles that can support growth and development (either the company is not growing, or an individual is not on the short list for advancement).
  • A company culture (collective behavior of leaders) that does not align with an individual’s values. This is not simply a “bad boss.” This is a complete misalignment of values and an unhealthy environment for someone to build a career upon.
  • A desire for a more challenging career to learn and grow. The career track within the company/industry does not seem as appealing as it once did for growth and development or after some genuine soul-searching, one’s true purpose or life’s desire is not aligned to a current career path.  

It is often difficult to simplify what is a complex, multifactorial decision to consider moving on, but it has been my experience that a most thoughtful and healthy rationale is when an individual’s desire to learn and grow exceeds the apparent opportunities in both the near and medium term in their current environment. The decision is most effective when it is based on the desire to continue to learn, grow and make a positive impact versus a decision based on fear or simply seeking “fame and fortune.”

Where to go? Once a decision to search is made, the next step is to figure where to go.

If the current industry, or sub-segment of an industry, still seems appealing, then searching for growing companies in the same field makes sense. An individual already has marketable skills and can hit the ground running in a similar position. This “fresh start” can often be an enabler of rapid individual growth that has been unleashed in a new environment without the limitations that were in place in a prior company.   

If the industry does not seem appealing (macro-factors driving consolidation, limited innovation, or the industry is ripe to be “Amazoned”, “Napstered” or “Uberized”) then it is time to look for new, growing industries or at least companies that seem capable of innovating their way out of an industry that is ripe for commoditization.

Assessing opportunities. There are books written on the various factors to determine whether an opportunity is sufficient to move forward. In my experience, it comes down to two factors (1) People: The leadership, the culture, and environment to participate must be trustworthy and well-aligned to a person’s values (2) Products & Services: Priority focus placed on innovations in product development, customer service, and operations must be well-appreciated otherwise a future of commoditization and outsourcing is not far away.

Corporate roles vs. the Entrepreneur: In today’s world where the marketplace and the media glorify, and reward entrepreneurs compared to the steady Joe and Jane leading great corporations on the world’s stage, it is important to consider the factors on making a major career shift of moving from a large company to an entrepreneurial venture. This decision is often on a whole different level than the process discussed above.

The mindset of an entrepreneur is different than the mindset of most corporate cultures.

If an individual prefers to work with familiar people, doing consistent processes within a steady organizational structure, and where the guardrails are firmly established, then the entrepreneur pathway may not be for them. However, if an individual wants to be on the hook for making decisions that impact the survival of the company, personally invest in work and products that are not a sure thing, and lead others to support a clear purpose without a high degree of certainty that it will succeed, then the path of entrepreneurship may be for them.

Today’s senior executives and top talent need to be intentional about building a career path that is focused on continual growth and development. The marketplace continues to accelerate the pace of change and the mindset of a steady, one-size fits all 30-year career plan will most likely end in an undesirable outcome. Those who expand their experience, development new skills, and adapt quickly to change are the most likely to thrive going forward. 

Are you facing a challenging career decision…or should you be and just have not yet accepted the reality?

What if I were to ask you, “What is the most difficult leadership challenge you are facing today?” What would you say?

Here are a few resources to help:

  1. Download FREE resources at
  2. Contact me. Email: (M) 269-370-9275

David Esposito