Want to be Great? Let your team members soar

releasing dove

Sid Daniels is an assistant Vice President for a company that employs 7,000 people nationwide. He has two veteran deputies below him who have proved their competence over a decade of service, providing IT solutions to local businesses as well as internally. Yet Sid, while using his deputies to cover for him in explaining technical information at board meetings, fails to promote either of them, whether by raise or by public affirmation.

Levita Benoit runs a growing business consulting firm on Chicago’s South Side. She started the company in her home, going from doing everything from securing clients to making her own brochures, to hiring a staff of five.  As the business grew, instead of having a bookkeeper she hired a certified CPA as her financial manager. The part-time virtual assistant job is now filled by a bona-fide Administrative Assistant. The staff of five has grown to 30, yet to their great frustration, the new managers’ scope of authority has not grown past that of the original, tightly managed crew. Continue reading

Power: Gollum couldn’t handle it; can you?

Lessons from the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) Trilogypower4 The enduring popularity of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fable trilogy, the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) is owed to brilliant writing combined with themes everyone can relate to, from camaraderie to courage to romance to the abuse of power. The basic plot was the attempt by an alliance for Frodo the Hobbit to forever destroy an all-powerful ring that would allow its wearer to dominate the world; a ring the evil “ringwraiths” sought after.

One helpful definition of power is influence plus enforcement

Power is the greatest benefit as well as the greatest danger for the executive on the ascent. There are many lessons from LOTR that can help give it perspective.

The ring was both a symbol of power and a source of power Having a title that starts with “chief”, or “executive” or “commissioner, etc., is itself both a symbol and a conveyor of power. As a former adjunct lecturer at a college where all instructors are called “professor” I became keenly aware of students’ desire to please me, even by agreeing with positions they thought I held, that they didn’t even believe in. It was understandable given the propensity of so many other authority figures in education to espouse their philosophies (Let’s get one thing straight, there is no God!) (Republicans are the party of progress). and penalize or humiliate students for disagreeing. Be mindful that just having a corner office, an assistant or a seat at the head of the conference table lets people know you wield power and influence without saying a word. Continue reading

Preparing to LAUNCH; 10 Questions to answer before your next step up

How do you get from where you are at work to the upper management-level  position where you want to be?


We should all be aspiring to take that next step up if we are on the career ascent or returning to work after a long pause or reinventing ourselves in a new field or after a life change. Here’s the rub: Moving up in management involves more than the broadening responsibilities entailed. It also includes a subtle lifestyle change, shift in alliances and mindset and it taxes our bodies and emotions in unexpected ways.

We need a plan, a holistic strategic plan for moving up in executive leadership as we plot to thrive our way from point A to Destination D. Continue reading

But you are not a Jedi YET…

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When you’ve changed and grown but your boss still sees you as an apprentice.

In Star Wars lore, a Padawan is the apprentice of a Jedi Master (a master fighter, strategist, spiritual guru and MASTER of “The Force”). The Padawan apprentices under the Jedi master for a number of years, learns not only how to control a light saber, but how to control his mind, bringing negative emotions under control so that he can develop his telekinetic powers. Yoda and Luke Skywalker (above) had just such a relationship, and even as the apprentice was gaining prowess towards Jedi knighthood, Yoda famously says to him in one scene, “But you are not a Jedi yet!”

As we go through promotions from front line employee to supervisor, to manager and beyond, two sets of people tend to have a tough time adjusting to the transition: our colleagues who are now our subordinates, and our new colleagues who were once our bosses (or several rungs up the ladder from us). Even though they may have groomed us for greatness and been the ones to release us into greater and greater responsibility and autonomy, it is still hard for many to acknowledge the fruit of their own “success”; that the student has now become the master. Continue reading

The Shift – (cont’d) Surviving Your Transition to the Top

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IT’s lonely at the top. If I could summarize one key point in surviving a major promotion it would be this: To Thine Own Self Be True.  Those people who have a solid, humble sense of self before the transition usually don’t go off the deep end even when such a radical shift occurs.

Warren Buffet is one of the richest men in the world. He is worth billions has had the same annual salary of $100,000 for the past 25 years and still lives in the home he purchased for $31,000 in 1958. (Business Insider). He famously asked the government a few years ago during the “tax wars” to raise his taxes because he believed that as a billionaire that he – like other tax-sheltered super rich folks – wasn’t paying his fair share. Money has not changed what he values – a peaceful, simple life just loving his family and doing what he loves for a living.

Michael Bergdahl in his book about Walmart founder Sam Walton ( What I Learned from Sam Walton… ) tells of a mega-store mogul who questioned his managers’ values if the parking lot was full of BMWs and late model cars. He, himself, drove an old Ford pick-up truck to work every day. Peer pressure and a stern talking to by the boss resulted in an employee parking lot that looked more like a used car lot than a luxury dealership.

Does this mean that you can’t enjoy your new found wealth and privileges? Not at all. But people who are content before they cross into that heady new atmosphere are more likely to remain content after reaching the top. Their inner peace does not depend on their outward trappings. What can we learn from their examples and others:

Personal – Believe it or not, I recommend journaling; writing your day by day reactions to this tremendous transition in your life. Some people actually seek therapy to cope with the sense of unworthiness that sometimes accompanies this sudden turn of events. Michael Hyatt has an excellent article on reframing your fear and making it work for you. Your circumstances have changed. You don’t have to change, but you do have to adjust.

Financial – Stay generous. The richer people get, the less they tend to give to charity. If you donated 10% of your income to a legitimate charity when it was in the hundreds of dollars, keep donating that 10% even when it’s in the tens of thousands. Get a good investment broker. The site Investopedia has a great article by Jonas Elmerraji on picking your first broker.

Stay balanced. This is the time in your career when you find yourself missing everything from lunch breaks to vacations. The number one complaint among executives is the lack of personal time to enjoy leisure pursuits. Decades ago Merril Lynch asked prospective stock brokers what they did in their down time. They knew that people who just lived to work wouldn’t last very long (or be fun to be around). Realistically, you will have to give up a lot of time for yourself and some family obligations in your new position, especially if it represents a significant change in your status in the organization. But fight hard to hold onto something of yourself.

On the job – Get an executive coach. Some corporations and municipal agencies offer them in house. You may want to take advantage of formal in house mentors but I also highly recommend outside coaches or internal ones that you’ve hand picked. They must be people who will tell you when your breath stinks or if you put your foot in your mouth.  By all means stay humble. While you may have mastered the position you came from, this new step is uncharted territory. You don’t know what you don’t know so do lots of listening in the beginning rather than come in like gangbusters. Be sure that you have totally learned the new territory and have gained strategic allies before you make any major changes in structure or systems.    Above all, enjoy yourself! You’ve earned it.

Do you have any experiences or advice for others who have been newly promoted? If so, please share your comment below!

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