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Do you really want this promotion?

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If you’re good at your job, all kinds of pushing forces within your organization – and society in general – will propel you into bigger roles with more responsibility, including managing people for the first time or support for larger teams.

And a lot of people naturally want those bigger jobs, and the reasons go beyond the pay rise that often comes with promotions. It’s called a career ladder for a reason: it’s something to climb. As human beings, we are programmed to strive for greater status, and all the markers that go with it: titles, more pay, and a better office (at least, back in the days when people had desks. ). Social media platforms amplify this dynamic as we share our headlines with the world.

Within organizations, we can also assume that all the top performers want to go further. So, as managers assess and develop talent to become future leaders, the default belief in many companies is that people will want to grow – a point that I didn’t really appreciate until I interviewed. Shawna Erdmann, senior vice president of learning at Comcast, the multinational telecommunications company based in Philadelphia.

“A lot of times the leaders of a company, including boards of directors and human resources, will choose among future executives for promotions, but no one has ever had a conversation with this person to ask them, ‘What do you want? you do? ” What are your ambitions? What are your goals or your next steps? ‘ She said. “A lot of times we miss this essential element and then we wonder why, when we are raising someone, they might not be doing as well as expected. But no one ever asked them, “Do you really want this job? Maybe they were just super happy to make a difference at their particular level, and had no ambition to do the next thing. We need to improve ourselves in these conversations.

To listen

The crises of the past 18 months have brought about profound changes in our perceptions of the role of organizations in society, the nature of the work itself (how and where it is done) and the qualities that matter most in leaders today. hui. This period of disruption has also led many people to reconsider what they want to do and where they want to live. And so, with all of these fundamental career questions put on the table, I would say we should add one more: do people really do you want the promotions that everyone assumes they want?

Yes, I understand that it might seem like trying to fight gravity. The reward systems we have in place are structured to create a powerful upward pull. But once the thrill of the new title and rising wages wears off, a lot of people find themselves in roles they don’t like or are unsuitable for. It is a fact of life that many people think they want a particular job until they actually get that job.

Reward systems create a powerful upward pull. But once the thrill of a new title and a pay rise wears off, a lot of people find themselves in roles they don’t like or are unsuitable for.

This is a point Kasper Rørsted, CEO of Adidas, pointed out to me when I interviewed him when he was CEO of German chemical company Henkel. During our conversation, I asked him what advice he would give to someone who is going to become CEO for the first time. His answer is equally relevant to anyone looking to move up to a higher position, as each managerial position brings new demands and challenges.

“I asked them, ‘Do you really want the job?’ Rørsted said. “It’s such a demanding job. On the outside, he looks very bright. But there is a lot of hard work. You get paid to do all the uncomfortable things. You don’t get paid to golf in Savannah. It’s not all glamor. I’m not saying it’s a hardship, but are they able to live with it? So it’s the first one: “Is this really what you want?” “”

The question is personal to me. In my 30-year career in journalism, before entering consulting four years ago, I twice turned down an offer to run a large newsroom. I was number two in the department, so the assumption was that I would like the job. But by working closely with my boss, I was exposed to what his job entailed, and I knew much of it didn’t match my strengths or my personality. And I wanted to continue doing what I loved most as a publisher, which was working with journalists to do good journalism. Did I pay a penalty based on my trajectory there? Without a doubt. Do I regret it? Not for a second.

The “up or out” culture that began in many fields such as law and academia – the pressure to achieve a certain rank within a certain period of time or otherwise – has become a fundamental notion for many companies. But some CEOs I’ve interviewed over the years have applied new thinking to compensation and hierarchies so that talented individual contributors feel rewarded without the usual pressure of taking on more senior leadership roles. Among them was Selina Lo, who was then CEO of Ruckus Wireless, a supplier of wireless networking equipment based in Sunnyvale, California.

“In my company, there is a rule that every new manager must know: it is not obvious that his employees [under them] will be paid less than them, ”Lo told me in our interview. “It’s part of training a manager – you really have to enjoy helping people. I want people who are good managers to be managers. I don’t want people to become managers just because they feel the need to. And she wanted people who aren’t management equipment but have other skills to get the monetary rewards for doing their jobs well.

Think of it as Peter’s principle backwards: rather than reaching their “maximum level of incompetence,” according to the famous maxim that describes how ambitious employees often go wrong by taking jobs for which they are not. skilled people may find that they are not doing it. They don’t want a particular job because it doesn’t match their skills or career goals.

Do not mistake yourself. I am for ambition. But for those considering promotions or HR managers managing talent pipelines, ambition doesn’t have to be blind. It’s time people started asking the question more often: do you really want this job?