Early in my career I ran into the CEO of the firm in the hallway and mentioned an idea to improve something. She had an open-door policy. The idea was well-received and I started a working group at the direction of the CEO two weeks later to develop the idea.

However, what I was not ready for was the resistance from the senior managers with whom I was working in this group. The working group eventually fizzled due to a lack of time, money, and attention from the senior managers from whom I needed support to make this idea work. I had little idea of what I had walked into at that time and I was just working to do the right thing.

I learned a few lessons as a junior consultant as a result of this experience:

– Open-door policies are good ideas. They enable new or aggressive ideas to be delivered without interference directly to senior leaders.

– Office politics is real. Be aware that not everyone is looking out for your best interests, especially when you start talking to the CEO. It’s important to build relationships and coalitions.

– Timing is important. You may want something to happen now, but it may not be the best time for the company to move forward with an idea due to competing resources.

– Don’t be afraid to speak up. You never know what may come out of it. You might also find yourself leading something and making an impact on people’s lives.

– Take charge of the direction of your career. Instigate change instead of waiting for things to happen.

Although the working group didn’t make progress in the short term, it was restarted a year later with the right mix of people to make things happen. I’m also still causing good trouble, and at least getting people to see things in a new way.

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