Most Successful IT Execs Need a Second Chance

 Do you sometimes wish you had been given a second chance at something along your career? If so, you’re not alone.

It might have been that failed marketing decision, that new product launch whose demand was underestimated or the career choice where you took the wrong fork in the road.

About 70 percent of senior executives and managers say they recall at least one time that they wish they had been given a second chance and were not, based on a nationwide survey conducted by NFI Research.

About a third say they wish they had gotten a second chance two to three times in the past and a quarter of respondents say they wish they’d received a second chance more than four times.

“I guess I have always been lucky to work for organizations in which a second chance was always an option,” said one survey respondent. “I’ve been in some that had a zero tolerance for certain specific things and those were always clearly identified and did not carry over to other areas.”

However, there are cases where second chances are not given, for various reasons such as following the most important of a company’s policies.

“Recently, we had a debacle created by five of our seven top managers, including our COO, not following written process phase exit guidelines which required wet signatures at every step,” said one CEO respondent. “When I discovered that this had gone on for more than six months, I did not look at problems with the process but rather with those people I formerly trusted to do their jobs. As a result, two of these people are going, the others are getting a second chance and are not too high on my trustometer.”

Said another respondent: “Second chances are necessary. It is the third and fourth ones that push the limits.”

Second chances typically go to those who have a track record and to those who perform. “I think second chances in any organization are more likely for individuals who have demonstrated success over time and earned the right to a second chance, third chance or even more,” said one respondent. “Good leaders recognize talent and try to find a way to use the talent to best advantage, which often requires providing another chance.”

“If you know how to handle problems and recognize the potential need for a second chance, then it is likely you will get one,” said another. “Positioning is everything.”

Said one respondent: “Other than for brand-new employees, you earn second chances by doing a good job along the way. If you don’t earn them, don’t expect them.”

Working in an environment where second chances are more likely to occur is healthy. In fact, almost 90 percent of survey respondents say that the environment in their department or organization is such that second chances are likely, with more than a quarter saying they are extremely likely.

Interestingly, the larger the company, the less likely people are to get a second chance, based on the survey.

“People need the opportunity to succeed or fail,” said one respondent. “Learning happens through failure (hopefully). If we have a culture built around learning agility, the odds are our people will grow, learn, improve and make our organizations better.”

“I pity organizations that do not allow second chances,” said another respondent. “They will not last long, as mistakes are an essential part of corporate growth. A willingness to try something that may fail is the hallmark of a strong future leader.”

Someone who has failed the first time around and gets a chance to do it over just might be the person who becomes charged enough to take his or her part of the business to a new level.

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Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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