Secret Sauce: A Chief Operating Officer Didn’t Get Promoted

If promotion or advancement didn’t work out for you, the practical lessons in this post are for you.

Welcome to “Secret Sauce Sunday.” I invite leaders who I admire to share real world leadership principles they have learned on their journey.

The insights that follow are born in Kerry Eaton’s experience. Kerry is Chief Operating Officer of Health Quest Systems, Inc. in LaGrangeville, NY.


I thought I was in line to be the CEO.

I didn’t get the promotion.

I tried to convince myself that it didn’t’ matter that much. Turns out I was lying to myself (and everyone who asked).  It was an awkward, embarrassing and painful time.

During that period, I stumbled upon a quote by Mizuta Masahilde,

“Since my house burned down I now have a better view of the rising moon.”

When I read that quote I immediately knew the work I had to do. I needed to pivot and take on a fresh view. I hadn’t realized there was a rising moon because I was fixated on the house that had burned down.

Three leadership lessons:

#1. It’s OK to spend some time looking at the burned down house. There is learning there.

I’d been leaving my career to others.  Looking at the burned down house helped me know that.

#2. Spending too much time staring at the burned down house is not useful. Once the pain has been acknowledged and the lessons are extracted, continuing to focus on the past just fans the flames that burnt the place down.

I’m pretty sure I waited too long to move on.

#3. Failure opens up new options that can be invisible when one is on a particular path.  If you don’t look up from the ashes, you may miss the rising moon.

I have twice ended up in very fulfilling roles that were not in my line of sight until my house burned down.

I am honestly grateful for the infernos!

Important note! 

This isn’t just about career disappointments.  The lesson applies to all the leadership issues we face.  Don’t wait for the 5-alarm fire to look for the rising moon. Scan the horizon early.

Learn to look for options instead of being forced to see them.

How might leaders scan the horizon for new opportunities before the house burns down?

Kerry recommendations: “The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEOs Strategies for Defeating the Devil’s Advocate and Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization,” by David Kelley

Meet Kerry:

Kerry Eaton is a senior executive with over 25 years of acute care leadership experience with over 14 years as a member of the executive team.

Before assuming the role of  Chief Operating Officer (COO) for Health Quest Systems, Inc., Kerry was the COO of Sacred Heart Health System, Inc., in Pensacola, FL.

Health Quest comprises 691 licensed beds and more than 6,000 employees.