In observing how some people react to the promotion of others, it got me thinking about mine. Technically speaking I have been promoted 3 times in my career (10 years); and frankly, I think I failed to earn the last one. Allow me to explain.
I perceive promotions as a continuum going from individual contribution to strategic thinking and team leading. In other words, as I get promoted the expectations go from producing a lot to management and development of staff.
Let’s explore my opening statement.
Promotions 1 and 2 relate to the individual achieving independence in production and core knowledge of the business; and in some cases, becoming a subject matter expert in your area.
For a period of 6 years I was exposed to complex actuarial concepts, saw the end of community rating Medicare plans, and entered the era of risk base pricing.
I progressed from assisting in the pricing of Medicare plans to being responsible for 2 regions encompassing 5+ states generating 1.2 Billion in revenue and serving over 120,000 lives. I went from following orders to actively suggesting ideas for new processes, tools, methodologies, and assumptions. I was also responsible for communicating results to regional leaders and addressing any audit questions. I was somewhat of an expert.
By now some would think I was ready to take the next step and start leading others. But was I?
Promotion #3 is hard to swallow. At the moment, I thought I deserved it because of the long hours, high levels of production, and all the hard work on getting the job done. The truth was that I had no management skills, emotional intelligence, or strategic thinking. I was just getting more stressed and working more hours to do everything myself.
I didn’t learn or start working on any of these leadership skills until 1 year into the new role. This means that it took me 365 days to realize I was no longer an individual contributor. An additional year would pass by before I could truly say I had a notion of management, leadership, strategic thinking, and staff development.
So the question, did I earn my promotions? Not at the time I was promoted.
The key takeaway is that I recognized a gap between reality and mindset and worked hard at bridging it.
In the end, what matters to me is that I decided to meet the demands of the new role instead of resting on my laurels. In the long run, people follow people, not titles.