We are taught from an early age that success means constantly climbing the corporate ladder, or seeking the next promotion. While having goals and being the best you can be is important and laudable, it does not have to lead to a vertical climb. Most organizations promote individuals who excel in their current positions assuming that they will succeed at the next as well. That is not always the case. Ray Rhodes, Mike Singletary, Gregg Williams, and even Michael Jordan are good examples of this. Rhodes and Williams were both great football defensive coordinators. However, they only had moderate success as NFL head coaches. Williams’ contract was not renewed after three forgettable years as the head coach of the Buffalo Bills. He returned to being a defensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins, Jacksonville Jaguars, and the New Orleans Saints. The Saints won the Super Bowl during his first year as defensive coordinator. Maybe his niche is being a defensive coordinator. Mike Singletary and Michael Jordan were both great players in the NFL and NBA respectively. Mike Singletary was the defensive captain on the Chicago Bears Super Bowl team and Michael Jordan has been called the greatest NBA player of all time. Being a great player doesn’t automatically make you a great coach or executive just as being a great librarian, architect, or salesperson doesn’t make you a great manager. In Jordan’s current role as owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, even Charles Barkley, one of Jordan’s friends, is quoted as saying, I love Michael, but he just has not done a good job…. Even though he is one of my great friends, I can’t get on here and tell you he’s done a great job. He has not done a great job, plain and simple. (Koplowitz 2012 ).
In order to be successful at the next level, you should prepare for those new duties and responsibilities in the same fashion that made you successful at the lower levels. As a player Jordan prepared as if his sports life and legacy depended on it. But as an owner, many question his dedication to the team because of his frequent absenteeism (Horrow and Swatek: 2010). Before moving to the next level, be sure you have accomplished everything you intended to in your current position. Without that feeling of completion, it may be tempting to meddle into the affairs of your successor which can make you a micro-manager. Self awareness is an important asset. No one knows you better than you do, so it is your decision to accept a promotion or not. If you think you have found your niche in your current position, then stay where you are. Coach Mike Krzyzewski is a great example of this – staying to coach Duke’s basketball team instead of going to the NBA where he may have or may have not been successful.
Have you ever been promoted, but then later regretted that decision? Do you think you could reject a promotion?
Koplowitz, Howard. “Charles Barkley: Michael Jordan ‘Has Not Done a Good Job.’” International Business News. March 2, 2012.