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

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

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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