Inscribed on the walls of the temple of Apollo at Delphi was the maxim ‘Know thyself’. Though more than 4,000 years old, it rings as true now as it did then. From the Oracle to modern day fairground fortune-tellers, we have learnt that one’s own truth lies within, if only we could uncover it.
I find myself opposite Gilbert, my outplacement adviser, trying to figure out what I want to do next in my career: What turns me on? What turns me off? What am I good at? When have I been at my best, and my worst? What factors were different? What do I aspire to achieve in the future? Should I pivot?
Initially, I was sceptical this would help. Firm in my mind, clear on my strengths, I rejected outright even contemplating opening my mind to different possibilities.
Gilbert persisted. Like a good farmer he sowed his seeds wide. While most wilted on the dry stony ground of my self confidence, a few took root: if I was offered another big CMO job tomorrow – all consuming, a massively challenging turnaround, political, splintered management team, a legacy business desperately in need of transformation- would I take it? I paused.
I had come from a highly political, risk averse, high-profile, failing business. Consistently weak leadership and the insidious mantra of ‘cut to grow’ had undermined our sense of purpose, replacing a need to understand our customers, build new propositions and invest in growth… I hesitated. Would I really want to rush in where angels feared to tread?
“Go away and work out what really motivates you, what you want to achieve,” Gilbert told me. “Read Herminia Ibarra’s Working Identity. Let’s talk when you have thought this through.”
Know thyself is probably the best advice I could give anyone in my position. Go on, I dare you to challenge yourself.