Moving up

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:33 pm

Many of my clients call or e-mail me with excitement, and trepidation, to share the news of a promotion.
It feels great to be acknowledged in such a substantial way; no doubt about that.
Shortly after it sinks in, however, comes the realization that the transition up is at least a little anxiety-producing as well. The change bestowed on us demands some change within us. The more we prepare for this, the smoother the transition will be and the more we will enjoy celebrating the fact that our hard work and great talents have been recognized.
One of my mentors often said, "Life is a process of holding on and letting go."
I think the hardest part of moving up in an organization is discerning which responsibilities need to be left behind and which we need to hold on to in the new position. If we try to do everything we did in the former job, as well as all that’s required in the new one, we will not be serving ourselves or the organization.You might wonder why I say something so obvious. Here’s why – some people attempt to do just that.
Letting go of our pet projects, our babies, is not easy. Letting go of managing our star employees is not easy. Letting go of a competency when we’re right at the top of the learning curve is not easy either. Sometimes we officially delegate away these responsibilities, but just can’t help peeking in to make sure all is well. That usually gets labeled micromanaging or worse. You can be prepared with well-thought-out plans for transition that include doing whatever it takes to get crystal clear on this shift in responsibility and the expectations of others. All of this happens by developing clarity for yourself, then sharing it with others, one conversation at a time.
Another change that comes with the new job is a more panoramic view of the organization, the industry and the environment surrounding both. There is increased responsibility to keep abreast of all three. The new position probably means that you will have access to new and different types of information. That will also modify your viewpoint and your decision-making, and probably deepen your appreciation of your superiors. The more responsibility we have in any organization, the more we are called upon to project our viewpoint far into the future, to forecast trends, to discern the leading edge and guide the organization to a competitive stance in relationship to that edge. Strategic planning comes to life.
The care and feeding of relationships changes, too. Sometimes peers become direct reports. That is a very difficult dance. Sometimes former colleagues just decide something like, "Well now that she’s in that big, fancy office and goes to all the senior management meetings, I’m sure she doesn’t have time for me." There are probably subtle and not-so-subtle shifts in nearly every relationship you’ve had in the organization.
Relationships with external customers may well change, too. Most of us want everyone to understand that we have not changed. We still care about people and issues as we did before the promotion. The better job doesn’t make a better person.
Nevertheless, attention has to be paid to speaking that truth. We may very well have to behave somewhat differently in some relationships. Still, we can have open, respectful conversations about those changes. Trust can be restored, but it cannot be taken for granted.
A promotion usually means you have the opportunity for influencing a larger audience. I think that is one of the most valuable benefits of moving into a bigger job. I believe there is greatness in each one of us. Most everyone I know operates out of a pretty decent set of values, as well. Each of us has unique gifts that we can use to make a positive difference and some admirable passions for change in the world.
There is an Old Testament prayer that begins, "Lord, bless me indeed and expand my territory." Well a promotion gives you an expanded territory within which to express your greatness, to model decency, to exercise your unique strengths and to allow your own spirited set of beliefs and passions to inspire others. Cool, huh?
So when you find yourself in a bigger pond, or with power to make bigger ripples in the one you’re in, take a deep breath, gear up and own that new position.

Jo Hawkins Donovan has a coaching and psychotherapy firm in Whitefish Bay and can be reached at (414) 332-0300, or at The firm’s Web site is

April 15, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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