Happy Anniversary to Me: How I Made the Decision to Change My Career

Gretchen Sussman on January 22, 2019

A Guide for Personal and Professional Decision-Making

January marks my one-year anniversary with Root Inc. As I reflect on the day I received the call to lead the Food & Hospitality practice, I remember asking myself: Why would I leave my current role when I have a great team, fabulous colleagues, and a boss who values my contributions and inspires me? How will this move help me achieve my long-term career objectives? What unique contributions do I bring to this new company and role? And the secret question we all ask ourselves: Am I qualified? Can I be successful?

When it comes to all major decision-making moments in my life, I rally my personal board of directors –those individuals in my network whom I trust to be truthtellers – to help me think through the plusses and minuses of making a change and to remind me of the critical questions I should weigh. After considering their feedback, the final and most crucial assessment is my Lead, Learn, Make a Difference framework – a checklist I came up with to help me face touch decisions.

Why I Believe in the Lead, Learn, Make a Difference Framework

This framework includes three categories and provides a filter to guide both personal and professional decision-making. It helps me decide where I want to invest my energy and contributions and with whom I want to spend my time, and ensures I’m making choices that will leave me fulfilled and engaged. Avoiding impulsive or emotional decisions isn’t easy. If you don’t have a solid network to lean on, this framework could be a great asset when you face a tough decision.

LEAD: Lead, for me, means to mentor and lead others through meaningful connections. Early in my career, I realized that leading others isn’t just leading those who report to me, but also clients, co-workers, peers, and superiors – in short, all human beings.

At Root, our purpose is to “invigorate the power of human beings to make a difference.” That purpose statement struck a chord with me. So on that day a year ago, when I was presented with the opportunity to help lead Food & Hospitality organizations through transformations that would impact their employees and their businesses for the better, I had to say yes. Over the past year I’ve been able to speak, facilitate, and coach countless individuals and teams in their pursuit of success. Lead – CHECK

LEARN: Learn means to be in an environment where I am challenged, expanding my knowledge, and honing my leadership capabilities to create the greatest impact for my organization and my clients.

As a part of my onboarding, I partnered with two amazingly talented colleagues and wrote the Socratic dialogue to a Learning Map® experience for one of North America’s top retailers. I thought to myself, “How hard could it be to write a bunch of questions?” WOW! Was I in for an awakening! Applying the Socratic and discovery-based learning methodologies has been one of the most enlightening experiences of my career.

After spending the last 25+ years leading teams in the “tell and direct” corporate world, I had to re-wire my brain to think differently. For the first time in a long time I’m not directing others. Instead, I’m learning how to help others come to their own conclusions about necessary behavioral shifts. Our data shows people will merely tolerate the conclusions of others but will own necessary behavioral shifts when they come to their own conclusions.

It didn’t take long for me to learn why this understanding is crucial to engage and sustain people in the changes needed to deliver the desired results, and why it requires every employee to own their part, both intellectually and emotionally. Learn – CHECK

MAKE A DIFFERENCE: Make a difference means I can positively impact organizations, teams, and individuals. Over the past year, I’ve partnered with colleagues to lead a variety of initiatives – cultural, strategic, and guest and employee engagement – that have reached tens of thousands of people across North America and abroad. That’s a lot of people! And I don’t take it for granted. I feel a great sense of joy seeing our clients engaging in a Root experience – clients who, for the first time, feel empowered and engaged in a way that has transformed both their work environment and the way they see themselves and what is possible for their lives. To contribute to, design, and deliver those experiences gives my work meaning and helps me know I’ve made a difference. Make a Difference – CHECK

Cheers to Leading, Learning, and Making a Difference for Another Year (or 10!)

Thank you to all who have sent congratulations for my work anniversary. I’m truly grateful for the amazing Food & Hospitality community and hope you find something valuable in the Lead, Learn, and Make a Difference decision-making framework. Who knows – it might help you the next time you face a big decision. If you have tips to share on how you tackle tough decisions, please chime in – the more insight, the better.

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