I quit my high-paying Fortune 500 job because
it felt like déjà vu all over again

Image provided by Getty Images

I resigned from my “traditional” job in 1990.

My dissatisfaction started gradually, but then quickly reached a point that demanded action. I submitted my notice from a high-paying executive position with a Fortune 500 aerospace company.


As we sat in a staff meeting discussing the same challenges we had been cogitating for months, it became clear that either we were unable to solve them or simply didn’t care to. I was and am convinced it was the latter. Walking away was not easy, as I loved what I did. I simply could no longer waste my time.

That dreadful feeling of déjà vu was overwhelming.

The executive team included very smart individuals — but an unhealthy team environment. In fact, the entire company environment was unhealthy.

A vigorous and productive leadership team lives a life with a balanced mix of stable priorities and ever-changing challenges.

Priorities are a reflection of the business strategy. If they are constantly changing, what does that tell you about the strategy? Either it’s a bad one, or it’s not being implemented.

If the day-to-day headaches are the same for an extended period, the team is not resolving them. Either they can’t, or they choose not to. In either case, the work environment is no fun for anyone. Work without fun retains only the desperate, not the best.

Review your staff meeting agendas for the past 12 months. Do you see changes that indicate progress is being made? If not, ask yourself:

  • Am I satisfied with this performance?
  • If progress is insufficient, is it because we don’t know how to improve, or because we lack the commitment?

If it’s because you don’t know how, turn to the outside for an unbiased expert view or for proficiency you don’t have internally. That is a sign of progress, not failure.

If the challenges are problems that you expect your leadership team to resolve but realize it can’t, make changes. In the interim, get the issues fixed. No reason for the entire company to feel stagnant as you make personnel adjustments.

If the long-lived challenges are outside of what you expect your team to have mastered, engage external expertise. Transfer the relevant knowledge to internal resources as problems are eliminated.

If challenges are lingering because of a lack of commitment or focus, why are you wasting time pretending during staff meetings?

Whatever you do, don’t let the obstacles stand.

Progress, which is not without problems, is new and exciting every day. If your daily drive to work weighs heavily with déjà vu, something is wrong. Figure out what and fix it before you are surrounded only by the desperate.

In 26 years of consulting with manufacturers, I have helped many companies. Each of them has been committed to avoiding, or dissatisfied with, déjà vu, even when the work was hard. They know the future depends on not repeating yesterday.

As published on American City Business Journals