There’s a dirty little secret about great companies. Some of them are so great, the experience you pick up actually doesn’t transfer easily to other opportunities.
Here’s how this phenomenon plays out:
1– You join a great company early in your career.
2–You are fortunate to work for a master, think the Obi-Wan Kenobi or Bill Belichick of your industry.
3–The master sees your potential. He/She brings you into the secret society of how the sausage gets made.
4–You are incredibly successful, receiving 2-3 promotions in the span of a decade while the master also experiences great success.
5–The master absolutely owns the organization you work for. People are scared of him/her, so the way you want to do things is the way that they are done. The success creates a bubble of zero interference and you and the master are welcome to become as dysfunctional as you want, and you never have to deal with political realities that other people in your industry do. Just as importantly, you become great at what you do – both individually, and as a system.
6–You look up and a decade has gone by. Then, the day comes. Korn Ferry sources you on LinkedIn (you thought they had secret tools, but no) and puts you up at age 37 for your next big step. The tricky part is you have to leave the fold of Obi-Wan. You take the job, Obi is proud.
7–You go to that big leadership position at another company. It’s hard. You last 18 months before you talk to Obi-Wan about coming back to the mother ship.
Congratulations. You didn’t know it, but you got INSTITUTIONALIZED in your decade with Obi Wan.
What does becoming INSTITUTIONALIZED mean and how does it happen? Being corporately institutionalized means you worked for a master. The master had so much success, he developed a Jedi-like process for how the sausage got made at your company. You and he were like chemists for your industry, and as your success grew, your potion for success grew more customized and borderline manic.
People want what that company has. So they recruited you.
But the problem is this. You worked for the master (Obi-Wan) and he had created an environment that could only exist at your company based on his knowledge and the lack of interference that existed based on the past and continued success.
You thought you could replicate that success. Turns out, you had been INSTITUTIONALIZED. You bristled at the politics of your new organization – you didn’t realize this is normal for the rest of the world. It was hard – so hard, after 18 months you reached back out to the master and asked him to keep an eye open for a spot to bring you back to the ranch.
Now you’re back doing very specific things for the master – things you’re convinced the rest of the world doesn’t understand.
Things are peaceful for now. You and the other inmates wonder how long the master will stay at it. You hope a long time.
It’s ****ing scary out there, away from the mothership. Life with Obi-Wan is better for you.
Kris Dunn is a Partner and CHRO at Kinetix, a national RPO firm for growth companies headquartered in Atlanta. He’s also the founder Fistful of Talent (founded in 2008) and The HR Capitalist (2007) – and has written over 70 feature columns at Workforce Management magazine. Prior to his investment at Kinetix, Kris served in HR leadership roles at DAXKO, Charter and Cingular. In his spare time, KD hits the road as a speaker and gives the world what it needs – pop culture references linked to Human Capital street smarts.