Posted by: Korry | March 8, 2012

3 Steps to Avoiding the Fast Track to a Dead-End

You’re irreplaceable! You were destined for this job! No one could ever do your job as well as you!

Have you ever received any of those glowing complements? If so, be extremely cautious because they may be a sure sign you’re on the fast track to a dead-end.

Now, if you absolutely love your job and could never dream of doing anything else, then those complements are an outstanding testament to how well you perform at work and congratulations are definitely in order!

If, on the other hand, you desire to move up, then you’re in a heap of trouble because being “irreplaceable” means that no one would ever want to promote you out of the position you hold and that the company so desperately needs you in! You’re simply too valuable where you are to move on.

Is this you? Are you on the fast track to a dead-end? Well never fear! There’s a way out and it involves just three simple steps!

Before I give you those three simple steps, I need to set a few things straight.

For starters, some people may try to tell you that you’ve simply done your job “too well,” implying if you had only done a little less-well at your job then you would have avoided the fast track to a dead-end in the first place.

I think that is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard! Every company needs its people to perform at an incredibly high level. Every company dreams of having a workforce made with all-stars who perfectly fit together! Just think of how efficient and productive any company could be if it had the best people for each job actually in each job.

Unfortunately, that’s just not reality. Instead, what actually happens is that companies try their best to find the best people, and then they try to fill the positions with the people they actually have. When they find someone who does a particular job extraordinarily well, they often don’t want to risk losing the efficiencies and gains that person brings by promoting him or her into a new role and replacing them with someone less qualified.

This, my friends, is the fast track to a dead-end.

Furthermore, this thinking is also flawed because why would any great company EVER want to promote someone who wasn’t excelling at their current position? Do you think they say, “You know, Joe has been doing exceptionally average work in his current position. He must not be challenged enough. I bet if we promote him into a position of even more responsibility that he will finally be in a spot to succeed. He will finally start to do amazing work.

You and I both know that’s even MORE ridiculous. If you can’t do your current job well, why on earth (or even mars for that matter) would the company ever promote you into a position that would challenge you even more?

So clear your mind of all that nonsense and follow these three simple rules to get off the fast track to a dead-end and hop on the elevator to the top.

STEP #1: Keep Doing Your Current Job Extraordinarily Well

No one should give you more responsibility if you can’t handle what you’ve got now, and no one will (or at least should) promote non-performers. This is the admission ticket for the promotion dance. Forget what anyone else may say. Always focus on performance. Strive for excellence. That’s the type of discipline needed at the top, and you should expect nothing less of yourself regardless of where you currently are.

STEP #2: Find Your Replacement

The fast track to a dead-end has at its core one word: Irreplaceability. Think about it: if you’re too valuable to be taken out of your current position, then the key to having the dead-end shackles removed from your ankles is to remove the aura of you being irreplaceable. This is tough to stomach since virtually all of us would like to know that we are irreplaceable and that we bring real value to what we do–at home or at the office. But if you can’t find someone to replace you, what makes you think a company will want to do that either?

Finding a replacement allows you to practice so many other leadership skills that will be needed in positions of greater responsibility: mentoring, leading, recruiting, etc. These are all skills you can talk about when you’re sitting in the interview for that new position. Not in a general way, but in a very specific, “I did this or that” kind of way. You won’t just have the experience that comes from the job itself, you’ll also have the experience that higher-level managers need.

All of this, however, is easy compared to the last and most critical step:

STEP #3: Cast Your Ego Aside

Harry Truman famously said, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit.” Promotions come to those who seek value for the company they work for, not just for themselves. So if another person gets a little credit because they do something that creates real value for the company–even if the person only did it because you suggested it or helped guide them towards doing it–cast your ego aside and congratulate them on a job well done.

Leaders cannot do every job in an organization, but to succeed they need every person in the organization to do their jobs amazingly well! If a leader runs around taking credit for all the things other people do, how many people will want to be “led” by that person anyway?

A leader’s primary job is to cultivate action towards a common goal. The leader sets the vision and inspires, coaches and guides those around her to work towards that common goal. Along the way, individuals succeed and great leaders recognize that success. They praise the work of others as an example of exactly the kind of thing the organization needs. By doing so, the leader ultimately gains the recognition he or she desires.

So those are the three simple steps to getting off the fast track to a dead-end. Step One: Keep doing your current job extraordinarily well. Only by doing your job well will you ever earn a chance to move up. Step Two: Find your replacement. If you have a replacement, you won’t be irreplaceable. And Step Three: Cast your ego aside. Don’t worry about who gets credit in the short-term. Instead, act like a leader and inspire, coach and guide others (including your replacement) to achieve the organization’s common goal.

Have you ever found yourself on the fast track to a dead-end? How did you handle it?

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