Book Review January 2008
I DIDN’T SEE IT COMING
Reviewed by Soroya
How often have you been shocked at the news that some CEO or vice president has been asked to step down? Within your own company, how many times has a mana-ger or supervisor been terminated unexpectedly? You yourself may have been that manager who was blindsided by the news that your services were no longer needed. The truth is, while it may have seemed unexpected, there were always signs clearly indicating the direction in which your career is heading. It is important to be able to recognize those signs.
I Didn’t See It Coming: The Only Book You’ll Ever Need to Avoid Being Blindsided in Business is designed to help you recognize the signals that all may not be well. The authors know only too well the ups and downs of being in leadership positions. Nancy C. Widmann was the first female president at CBS Inc. and an inductee into the Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2005. Elaine J. Eisenman, Ph. D., dean of executive education at Babson College, has spent more than 25 years as a consultant for Fortune 500 companies. Amy Dorn Kopelan managed programming at ABC’s Good Morning America for nine years and is now president of Bedlam Entertainment Inc.
So why did these three successful women write this book? They did so because they all have experienced an “I didn’t see it coming” moment and hope to prevent you from having a similar experience, or at least to better prepare you for it. Their introduction states, “I Didn’t See It Coming is our gift of hindsight to you.” Certainly, the book contains valuable insight into the machinations of the business world.
The very first chapter of the book is devoted to the need for an exit strategy. This may seem odd and more than a little pessimistic. However, the authors point out that it is foolhardy to move along in the assumption that your job will always be there. The three Cs—change, confidence and control—are key to exit strategy. Recognize that change will occur and that no job is permanent; be confident enough to effectively do your job without worrying about losing it; and control the path that your professional life will take. The chapter details what constitutes a good exit strategy, including saving money and being alert to trends in your industry that may affect you.
Chapter Two, “Taking the Reins,” discusses the new position that you have and what your goals and visions are for that position. One suggestion is to have some variation of a town-hall meeting so that the staff can meet you and hopefully be put at ease about your leadership style. The authors also suggest learning about the leader who preceded you so that you have a better idea of his or her style and what led to his or her demise. These ideas also are linked to Chapter Three, which is all about keeping the right perspective. The main idea here is that you cannot expect to hear the truth when you are the boss. Workers aim to please and will say what they think you want to hear. Yet, it is important to know how you are perceived in the workplace. Have discussions and meetings so that the workers get to know you and use those opportunities to observe and get to know them. Networking is the focus of Chapter Four. The authors describe a “band of brothers or sisters” that is put in place with basic rules to ensure that you never discredit each other and that you look out for each other inside and outside of the company. This creates a buffer and adds to your confidence as a leader. Chapter Six, “Surviving a New Boss,” is a reminder that “power shifts at the top filter down to the bottom.” It instructs you to be ever alert and aware of changes in the company structure and never assume that these changes have nothing to do with you.
In Chapter Eight, the authors shift focus to senior staff—“the folks who have no profit-and-loss responsibilities but who wield a tremendous amount of power.” They show how these “hidden influents with a direct line to the CEO” can support or impede your climb to the top. They also show you how to deal with consultants and leverage them to your own benefit. Chapter Nine, the final chapter, discusses how to identify sea change inside your organization and lists 10 red flags that signal your career may be coming to an end. The authors provide a game plan for effectively handling the day of reckoning and maintaining power and composure through the process. The book comes full circle with four laws for preventing an
The authors describe the corporate world as a minefield. I Didn’t See It Coming: The Only Book You’ll Ever Need to Avoid Being Blindsided in Business is designed to help you make your way through the minefield with minimal damage. Containing a wealth of information, it is a must-read for every executive who feels secure about his or her job.