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

But you are not a Jedi YET…

Yoda 2

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 “But you are not a Jedi YET…”

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

The Top 1

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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The S H I F T: What no one tells you about how a big promotion alters your life – part 1

Businesswoman climbing ladder.1. Titles do matter

“Oh, I’ll just be the same guy you always knew. Just with a  new corner office. Title means nothing to me” But titles do matter. That’s why they’re given. It seems so modest to say you are the same “Gary from the block” (J-Lo tried it, after all). But not only is your place on the org chart now different; protocols, the weight of your words; your status among your peers; hierarchical relationships; alliances and your latitude are dramatically altered as well. You are looked at differently whether you feel different or not.

2. Alliances Change

Now you’re the ‘them’ in the “us vs. them” discussions by the water cooler. It would be disloyal as well as unprofessional to entertain or participate in the banter trashing the higher ups. While that may be obvious, the feeling that you are now an outsider to your years-long colleagues and friends may sneak up on you like a stealth missile. The managerial or executive viewpoint is now that of “we” and the organization is the “us”. Failure to make that shift will cripple your effectiveness in your new role. The business and its success rather than personal gain or popularity now become your #1 priority. You can no longer share information down the chain as you once did. You are also suddenly privvy to information you didn’t know before, decisions that will impact jobs, policy changes and office politics.

3. Relationships are Challenged

Business guru Jim Collins popularized the concept of the “bus” to represent the organization. You may have been the driver of your “mini-bus”, the head of a department, a team leader or Unit Chief. Now you’re driving a greyhound. The life you may have managed on a mini-bus may be squeezed out by Greyhound demands if you do not carefully take time to do the work of intentional planning that includes wellness, relationships of importance and down time. It happens often enough that relationship alienation and family disintegration can be almost predicted the higher you go. It doesn’t only happen in Hollywood.

Applying the physical law of inertia to relationships, they will not just take care of themselves. In your new circumstances you must jealously guard relationships and choose your work friends even more wisely.

Relationships at work are also challenged, particularly friendships and even casual acquaintences. The “Green-Eyed Monster” of jealousy may crop up among people where you least expect it (“Why you and not me?!) and you may find yourself the subject of gossip and rumors.

4. Financial Disorientation is Common

Consultants like  Robert Pagliarini and Carol Dacey-Charles have established businesses helping people sort through the financial and psychological issues of sudden wealth.  A dramatic hike in salary can leave one wishing (after the first few shopping sprees) like life was simpler, however poorer. From Rap Artists to Lottery winners and heirs, initial euphoria frequently gives way to everything from survivor guilt to substance abuse.  You may find yourself being seen by loved ones as the “Gravy Train” that everyone wants to hop on. Lenders beware!

If you’ve just received a significant salary boost, it’s time to get a financial adviser if you haven’t already.

Next time: Part 2 – Internal ego shifts and how to thrive