Advancement -- The Best Way Forward?

by Joanne Leitschuh

After a crisis in the office, a thought entered my mind: “Can’t someone else do this job better? Why me? How did I get into this position?” My job certainly was easier several years ago when I had less responsibility. Sometimes, being a wholesale jewellery office manager makes me wonder if I am fully qualified for my job. Do I feel that management comes naturally? No. Could I have been happy staying where I was before I had these responsibilities? I don’t think so. I was looking for a challenge. I had a need to advance into greater responsibility.

I read an article in Management Today by Nick Denton. [“E-mail From the Valley”, Nick Denton, Management Today, December, 2001.] He begins by saying, “The Peter principle has always bemused me. Employees will advance to their highest level of competence and then be promoted beyond it, according to Laurence Peter, the author of the concept.”

In business, when one achieves a level of comfortable competence, what is the next step? Do you stay put and excel in forwarding your ideas? Or does your boss decide to put you into a management position that you know is beyond your capabilities? Nick Denton is the chairman of a technology business. He tried something uncommon by teaming up a talented but erratic web marketing expert with one of the most relentlessly efficient people in the company. It was a success because he got the best out of both employees. Denton goes on to say that, “A manager needs to win the respect of staff. And that is often earned by the brilliance of the individual’s record. Managerial ability and brilliance rarely go together.”

In other words, if there is someone in your company who is performing exceptionally well, it might be a big mistake to make them a manager. An effective manager needs to be attentive to progress, be able to communicate with the department and with other groups, and have an ability to command and build up loyalty. Often management is the only path of advancement. But is it the right path for those that are brilliant in their particular area and prefer working alone? Many businesses today rely on creative innovation. It would be a shame to take these brilliant people and force them to take on management responsibilities just because there is no other way to promote them for a job well done. Today, in many sectors, it is common for managers to make less money than those of lower rank. For example, movie stars have bigger paychecks than their directors, investment traders can make more than their managers or an exceptional sales person could earn more than their vice president.

Advertising agencies often team creative people with organizational people. Nick Denton points out that this pairing can have its drawbacks. “Nissan Design International, the car design company, divides its 50 professionals into 25 pairs. It balances flair with experience and attention to detail. However, Jerry Hirshberg from Nissan Design, admits that relationships in his teams can be abrasive. And it makes reorganization awkward if people have to move around as though shackled to each other in a three-legged race.” In comparison, “Microsoft has created a separate status scale for its software engineers. The objective is managers who can manage and developers who can develop. It sounds simple enough, but most companies ignore the lesson.”

So what is the best answer when it comes to advancement in your career? The ideal would be for creative-type jobs to offer an increase in experience, status and pay. Management-type jobs would offer promotions and greater responsibilities. But what is the reality? Each business is made up of people — all with different talents and capabilities.

When I entered the wholesale jewellery business I didn’t know what I was capable of. Who gave me my talents and capabilities? My parents, my teachers, or God, my loving Father and Creator? He knows what we are able to achieve and when. The Bible reveals many examples of men and women who were thrust into situations that they felt were beyond their capabilities. Moses, David, Esther, Mary, Paul were some of the people who were in the right place at the right time to do the job that God had designed just for them. He took their strengths and weaknesses and used them to achieve the desired outcome. In our own lives, God “hand-picks” the people we work with to shape us. He arranges the situations – routine and crisis-like – to develop our character. You could say we get “promoted” in faith and trust. Our advancement may not always be evident in the workplace but our personal relationship with God can grow to a higher level day by day. Only He knows how He uses our jobs to prepare us for heaven and eternity with Him.

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