examine jobI’ve seen it happen so many times. A very successful person, bored with the familiarity of their job and plagued by many conflicting desires, wants another place in the organization, maneuvers a move to that other place and is miserable after they get there. In major gifts, Jeff and I often see a very successful MGO “just have to” become the major gift program manager. Hmmmm… That could be a pretty big leap!
Why do we do this? Why is it we just have to move to another position and usually move up?
There are some good reasons:

  1. You really do have more to contribute – You and the people around you believe there are better ways to put your skills and abilities to good use in the organization. (Don’t trust your own perceptions alone on this one).
  2. The organization needs you to help in new ways.
  3. The two items above are true and you need (not want) more money.

There are also some reasons that are not very good:

  1. You want (not need) the money. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen a person who, wanting more money, gets into a job position that doesn’t fit him – then he performs miserably, fails and then loses not only the job he so brilliantly got, but he also loses the platform of respect and honor (and the position) he originally had. This happens more than you know, and it’s tragic.
  2. You want recognition. This one is tricky, because recognition isn’t all bad. In fact, one of the key attributes of good sales/creative people is that they love and need the attention and recognition of others. This is good. When interviewing for these types of positions, I always try to discern if the person is satisfied with being one of many in their group, or do they need to be a key contributor? If they’re satisfied being one of many, they won’t succeed in their job.

    A critical attribute of a good sales person (read MGO) is that they need to stand out from the group; they need to be a key contributor. This is good. But where this goes bad is when the person is so hungry for recognition that they can’t see the limits of their abilities, and they can’t respect and honor others. They’ll do almost anything to gain recognition, including taking over the job duties of another person, grabbing the credit for something well done – even though it doesn’t belong to them and, almost like a child, demanding attention: demanding a place, requiring the giving of their opinion, insisting they be included in a meeting, etc. It’s tiring to watch, believe me. This is where you don’t want to go.
  3. You want more authority and power. But you want this not because you want to increase your service to others and the organization. You want it because it makes you feel good, and you need to be in charge, controlling and directing others.

    I just experienced a situation where a person is in such a position. This person needs more recognition. They need authority and power. And they’re totally, absolutely out of their depth in terms of ability. They are so far away from their true authentic self – they’re so far away from the use of any skill or ability they have that, if it weren’t so tragic, it would be like watching a comedy. One gaffe follows another. The person dominates meetings, yakking away about total nonsense. It’s a joke.

    I sat in one meeting where I just wanted to get up and yell at the person and tell them to shut up. It was that frustrating. But then, following my own advice, I looked at the person through compassionate eyes and saw a wonderful human being that is simply lost – a person who so desperately wants to be valued, loved and accepted that they just can’t help themselves. It is so sad.

So if you’re making the money you need to make, you’re happy in your job, and your boss is also happy with you, why worry about another position unless you can contribute more in another position, or the organization needs you to help in a new way?
Someone might say: “Richard, you seem to be saying that a person should never seek to further their career, either with their current organization or with a new one. Is that what you’re saying?”
No, not at all – and I’m sorry if I give you that impression. I’m talking about the heart and motivations behind the desire to advance, NOT the actual act of advancing, which is good. In fact, if no one wanted to advance in life, we’d stagnate into a non-productive, no-progress, no-energy status quo. And that would be terrible. No, I don’t mean that.
Here’s what I do mean.
If you have unrealized potential and can use that potential (those skills and abilities) to serve others outrageously; if you see an area in the organization you’re currently working for (or in another organization) where you know you could make a difference by contributing your skills and abilities; and if you need more money and one or both of the previous statements are true, then go for it with gusto, energy and determination. I call this reason for advancing the “others” reason, because the focus of your help is on others.
If, instead, your motive is about gaining recognition, power and authority and the points above don’t apply, then stay where you are. You’re obsessing about the wrong stuff. And if you let it play out, you’ll get yourself into trouble. I call this reason for advancing the “self” reason, because the focus of your help is on yourself.
While it’s easy to write about these two positions (others and self), here it’s very complex to actually apply the principles embodied in them because there’s always a little bit of self in everything we do – no matter how “other-oriented” we become.
But my major point here is to control and manage self, and to focus those inner drives on others. When you can tip the balance from self to others, then you begin to experience true happiness and fulfillment in your life.