Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Let Go

Throughout your career, you have been rewarded for certain behaviours. Maybe you were a technical expert. Maybe you hit every target that you were given. Maybe you knew how to push other people to get them to comply. Maybe you let people walk all over you, as you laboured long into the night while they went home to their families. Whatever it was, you were repeatedly rewarded for it. Sometimes, you were rewarded explicitly with bonuses and certificates. Usually, and more importantly, you were rewarded implicitly, with vague nods of approval and acceptance by the boss. You felt part of the gang. You belonged.

The very behaviours, and we could equally use the word skills or capabilities, which got you to where you are right now, sitting there, reading this article, are now precisely the behaviours which hold you back, which tie you to that chair, those working hours, that lifestyle. If you see your colleagues being promoted ahead of you, you can be sure you're stuck behind the second glass ceiling.

If you're a technician, your technical skills will get you so far, until you reach the point that technical skills are easy to teach. Technicians are not hard to find. However, people with the ability to integrate technical and commercial acumen and lead teams are harder to find. It's people with those skills that get promoted. At this stage, we don't need any more technicians. What we need is people who can lead technicians. And I don't mean software programmers; technicians can be lawyers, accountants, teachers, anyone whose value is based in their technical knowledge of a subject. Even a sales person can be a technician.

For you to break through the second glass ceiling means that you have to let go of the very capabilities that got you here. You have to let go of the qualities that you most value in yourself, because those are the qualities that others have rewarded you for.

Herein lies the key: You have been valued by others, because you cannot value yourself. You have been rewarded as a way of shaping you to the will of others. You have not followed your own path.

Breaking through the second glass ceiling means letting go of the illusion of self-worth and instead, doing something unthinkable, something uncomfortable, even scary. For some people, even terrifying.

You have to do what makes you happy.

I'll be running a workshop on this subject at the TIAS Business School in Tilburg, Netherlands on March 11th. Maybe you'd like me to run it for your team. Alternatively, maybe you'd like to wait for another few years and see if things change.

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