The grass may be greener on the other side …

…But it will likely require more mowing

A reality of life is that almost everyone thinks the other guy has it better. In business, most of us have periodically thought, “If I worked for another company, I’d be better paid, feel more appreciated and advance further and faster.” CEOs always ponder, “If only I had a better team, we’d eat the competitors for lunch.” Owners fantasize, “If I could only sell my company, my problems would be over, and I would spend the rest of my life sipping piña coladas on the beach.”

Today, I counsel individual executives and startup companies. When they come to me for advice because they’re considering a big move, I focus on what they’re saying, but I also read between the lines in order to decipher what they really mean. As part of the first step in the decision process, I give them a homework assignment that is a sanity check to be sure that what they’re wishing for or fantasizing about is really attainable and is genuinely what they want.

This exercise starts with preparing one list of the positives of their existing position or business and another list of the biggest negatives. Next, below each of the minuses, I instruct themto write the reasons for the issue that has driven them to this point. The final step is to analyze each of the barriers to satisfaction and outline what could be done to fix the problems if there were no limitations.

Almost invariably, the client comes back and tells me that what they disliked so fervently is fixable. They all seem to discover that perhaps there are possible workarounds to address or eliminate what only a day ago they envisioned as insurmountable obstacles. 

This exercise is also particularly effective when a highly valued employee walks into your office and hands you a sealed white envelope, while staring at their shoes. This almost always contains a resignation letter. If I want to try to salvage the employee, I ask them to take a brief timeout as I propose that he or she undertake an introspective assessment of the grass on which they’re currently standing versus the seemingly gleaming sod on the other side. 

I then ask that they enumerate the good and the bad, and what it would take to improve their existing employment situation. Sometimes I even suggest that they search the web for an oldie-but-goodie song with the lyrics that needs no further explanation: “You don’t know what you’ve got until you lose it.”

The same initial time-out method of creating a what-if narrative is versatile and applies to any life-altering business or personal decision. This includes how to reverse unintended consequences, such as prematurely selling your business only to wind up vegetating on a beach, enduring a perpetual state of boredom and a painful sunburn.

Although the grass always seems greener on the other side, another reality is that this new bright and shiny turf probably takes much more mowing. Instead, it might prove better — and easier — to hunker down and improve what you already have.

Visit Michael Feuer’s website to learn more about his columns, watch videos and purchase his books, “The Benevolent Dictator” and “Tips From The Top.”