Bill Cole on Career Pivots, Working with Ambiguity, and "Collaborative Decisionomics"

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One of the most beneficial practices I’ve used as a professional is talking to (or reading about) and learning from successful people who have a different perspective or background than I do. I met with Bill Cole in Kansas City a couple months ago at the recommendation of my husband, who has worked with Bill for a number of years through his consulting work. After an energizing conversation with Bill about his career pivots, creating structure from ambiguity, and his approach to making decisions, I was excited to finish up the seventh episode of The Savvy Young Professional podcast and not only share it with you but also listen to it to hear Bill’s ideas again. Along with a preview of our conversation below, you can listen here, on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or Spotify. And, if you have not already, please leave a review either in your listening app or via the comments below. Thank you!

Bill has had an unconventional career, starting as a teacher and coach, migrating to the utilities industry, and becoming one of the most senior leaders at a large engineering and construction company (with no formal background in engineering, construction, or business) as a result of an opportunity that tapped into his love for teaching others. Bill currently runs his own consulting business along with investing in small businesses. His story showed me the endless possibilities available with respect to your career path when you combine natural talent, sacrifice, and hard work. Over and over, Bill has been excited to learn something new and get out of his comfort zone rather than continue on with an easier, comfortable path. This mindset required him to put in the time and sacrifice to learn all the time and travel quite a bit, as well as risk potentially failing.

One piece of advice I appreciated from Bill was his recommendation to “prepare for the things that are done to you”. Other people and their decisions or actions are out of our control, and the only things we can really control or prepare for is ourselves and our reaction to the situations we find ourselves in.

Bill is also writing a book which will include his approach to decision making that he calls “collaborative decisionomics” . His approach looks at the vectors that are part of the decision process and helps one reason and rationalize making a decision. For example, let’s say you are originally from St. Louis, attend school at the University of Missouri in Columbia, MO and receive an amazing job offer to go to New York. It sounds fantastic, but you are hesitating at accepting the offer. Why? While your career, money, and a New York lifestyle may be enticing factors or “vectors” in your decision, returning home to your family in St. Louis may be a more enticing vector that you value more than the job in New York. The point of the exercise, which goes deeper than this example, is to examine our values and motivators, and make logical decisions based on the criteria most important to us and our goals.

I hope you enjoy this episode!