I was told when I moved to LA that the average time a top exec stays in a job is 18 months. I dropped my jaw. I had lived in places like Seattle and Alaska where people worked for the same Aerospace, IT, or Oil Company for life!
I have found it to be pretty spot on as an average length of time execs are in positions in LA. They were surely correct and I don’t have the answers as to why. ( I’m not a sociologist.) However, what I have observed is that things move fast in LA. (Maybe it is because of all of the sun ;) !)
As I looked over my own resume the other day, I realized that when I first moved to LA, I was in jobs much longer than 2 years. In the last few positions, I was there on or about 2 years in executive roles. So, although I cannot answer the question for all execs in LA as to why the average is 18 months, aggregately, I can share my own experience as to why.
Of course as I grew with experience, as we all do, I became faster at accomplishing some goals because I’d been down that “rabbit hole” before and I knew the pitfalls and how to avoid or manage them. The experience helped me do things faster, but I need to look deeper into who I am to answer the question as to why I fit into this LA statistic.
After some self examination, I think that for me, it comes down to my personal style and how I work the best. In my last few positions and even long term consulting assignments, I realized that I am a leader of change. I don’t like to maintain things. I like to fix them, grow them or sadly, sometimes close them down or sell them. I generally obtain a pretty good lay of the land very quickly as I like to ask a lot of questions in an interview with an employer or client. I want to know what has been working and what has not been working. Once in the environment, I give many employees at varying levels the opportunity to tell me what they believe is working and what is not working. (It is very telling when what I hear from the team in the environment differs from what I heard from the employer or client.)
Through a process of listening to the employer or client and the key staff, I then do some investigation of my own. Once I identify all of the problems, I become a leader of change. I begin by communicating the problems and goals to both employees and employer/client and assure them that we (the staff and I) will remedy each problem and attain the goals. I think that it is very important to get everyone on the same page about what the problems and goals are and how we all can play a role in achieving them. As one of my favorite project managers of all times told me, “Mary, you make us feel like a real team – almost like a family. It makes us want to work harder to get things right.” B-I-N-G-O!
Perhaps how LA has changed me is that I have relaxed when it comes to hierarchical organization charts. I succeed faster and make everyone enjoy their work more by working in a matrix style organization. You can debate whether I’m talking about a flat organization or not, but it really doesn’t matter. Even in the utmost hierarchical organizations, the way I lead breeds team work and celebration when we “get stuff done”. By the way, I sometimes sign my name with a GSD after it and people ask me what it means. It means gets stuff done and that’s what I do. Once the problems are fixed and goals are achieved, I am no longer needed for the organization as the change leader - and I apparently --- that process takes about 2 years to effect in LA!