One of the most powerful lessons I learned in business was that the best people do not always get promoted. I learnt it when I was still at an age where my naivety allowed others to play a hard game. It was back in 1983 when my boss’ boss needed to decide who from the sales team should become the new manager. Even at my tender age I realized that it was not an easy decision.
Of course, I secretly hoped (by some miracle) that I would be chosen. However, deep down, I knew that although I had great sales figures, I had little or no experience in management and anyway I was still the new kid on the block. On the other hand Brian was the most obvious choice. He had years of experience, excellent sales numbers and a knowledge of the industry that went back to the Roman times. But this time, like all the others before, Brian failed to be selected. Instead, Martin, a pretty useless sales person, with the lowest figures of all (and who had been doing a crap job for a long time) got the job.
The news came as a complete shock. No one liked Martin, although he did seem to get on well with the big boss. It was only later, when I had my own sales team that I fully realized what was happening. That the skills required as a sales manager are quite different than that of a sales person. That if you had to take someone off the road, you had better remove the person that would not impact on the companies targets and bonuses. And finally, if you want to bring in unwelcome changes (daily progress reporting or logos and slogans on company cars, for example ) then you better have a ‘yes man’ who is prepared to adopt any idea from upstairs and make it sound like his or her own. And this person was Martin!
Throughout my career I have seen good people get stereotyped into positions that turned out to be dead-ends. So the secret is to make sure that, if you want to be more than just recognized and appreciated for what you do, then you better re-invent yourself fairly often and make sure that everyone around you sees the transformation going on within you and around you.
Have a good week,