Imagine me, speeding down the high street at my normal brisk London pace, bright shop windows filled with colourful displays. Out of the corner of my eye I spot them. I squeal to a halt, reverse back the five or six steps I have taken. I gaze in wonder.
These are the shoes. The shoes of my dreams. The shoes that will transform me from a shortish plumpish blur in the crowd to an exotic, sophisticated bird of paradise.
They're high, on slender heels, acid purple, with just the kind of fussy details I love.
I must have them.
I enter the shop in a trance, share my size with the helpful assistant and lo, they appear, dazzling, in their magic box. They fit perfectly. I am transformed.
"I'll take them", I whisper, unable to take my eyes off my transformed feet.
But by the corner, I realize I have a problem.
I didn't bother with much of a toddle in my new shoes. They looked beautiful, I fell for them and now I discover, to my dismay, that I can hardly stand perpendicular in them. And worse, the leather is already rubbing, no further than 100 yards from the shop and I am forced to stop, have a lean against a wall and rue my fate.
I stagger, cursing to the nearest pharmacy, for some plasters. Then I change back into my go-faster-flats.
My beautiful exotic shoes have pride of place on the top shelf of my wardrobe.
They are there to remind me of something.
For my clients, the glamour and lure of a prestigious job can be like my new shoes. We can tell ourselves all sorts of stories about what this job will mean, what prestige, success, status and financial prosperity we will have as a result of stepping into a new a role.
But unless the role fits who we are, unless the environment and the values of the organization enable us to do our best work, we can end like me, breathless and staggering on the corner.
Fit is important. Ensuring you take time to explore the environment you are entering, the culture of the organization you are joining can have a huge impact on your ability to be both successful and happy. Failing to investigate this can leave you sore, tired and frustrated or worse, truly burned out.
So, how can you prevent this eventuality?
Take time to consider the environments in which you thrive and do your best work. When do you feel most energized? In what company? What kinds of support or resources need to be in place? Do you need autonomy, structure, community, peace and quiet? We are all different. And what are the deal breakers? Being able to articulate this is crucial for finding the right fit. You wouldn't buy a home without it checking off a certain set of criteria - do the same for your next role - or the refinement of your existing one.
Try before you buy
You have earned the right to interview a potential employer. Give some thought to the questions that will help you to have a sense of the environment there. Share your self-knowledge and decide on a couple of questions that will give you an indicator of how well these needs might be met in this role.
If you want to tweak the environment in an existing role to enhance your satisfaction and performance, what specifically do you need to ask for?
Own your choice
Having made the decision to take on a new role, you need to take ownership and feel empowered to make it your own. Looking at this list of environmental requirements, how many of them do you think you could begin to shift without needing to asking permission? For example, you might not be able to change the location of your office, but could you integrate fresh air breaks into your day or introduce walking meetings? While the organization has a responsibility to create a culture in which all can thrive, we all have our own responsibility to make the shoes fit the way we walk.
And therein ends the parable of the wrong shoes.