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!
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
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.
Pure reflection, regularly, critically, forward focussed.
Get friends and mentors to give honest feedback, do you have forward momentum and are you steering your own course?
Finally, keep an open mind as to what the future you will be and do. Often we don’t know what our ideal future is until it arrives. Explore opportunities as they arrive. Be open to changes. Use your values and gutt to help steer your course.
Only you know know what is desired!
How to get there is the challenge?
Trust yourself, yet seek guidance from others who have reached the plateau!
Never assume you can’t get there!
Try and try till you reach the pinnacle of your dreams, some never get there because they give up.
Reevaluate what is the right course for you as we all are different with dreams for success and what we classify as successful.
I like to use the phrase “We Plan and God Laughs”. Sometimes the best promotion is the one we do not receive at all. We have these career paths, but are we ever really in charge of the paths? To a degree I think we are, but we do not necessarily have control over what happens along that path. We think we are needed in certain roles, but to others, they may see our potential needed elsewhere. This recently happened to me where I received the responsibilities of a women who left the company. I did not think this was a promotion at first, I thought it was more of a “Jenna is not doing enough, so lets give her these responsibilities as well”. I stared at the burned down house that was my previous work. I was swallowed by the thought that management did not think I had enough to do and that my previous work was not important enough. I didn’t think I marketed my work enough. Turns out, it was a promotion and just wasn’t communicated very well. I never thought of being in this position, I actually used to stray away from it because of all of the complications and challenges it faces. Now here I am and I finally see the rising moon.
This was a stunner and growth maximizer no doubt. Best article you’ve sent all year, thanks!
I’ve had something similar on my wall since I saw it about 10 years ago and it’s always been one of my favorites (I was given a zen-saying-a-day calendar by a coworker and this was March 14, 2007):
Although the wind
blows terribly here,
the moonlight also
leaks through the holes
in the roof
of this ruined house.
I loved this post and the sentiment that there’s often moonlight after our house burns down – it’s so hard sometimes to see beyond the disappointment of something not going the way we expected it, but there’s often opportunity there as well. It doesn’t mean that we should reflect and figure out why it happened and how we can avoid it next time, but it often reveals possibilities to us that we were blinded to before.
Keep it up!
A very practical post-Dan. It is often seen that competent people denied promotion. Many patiently wait and watch for next promotion. And there is no guarantee for next promotion. There are others who start exploring their horizon. I appreciate your point about scanning the horizon.Whether it is leader or anybody else, one should explore horizon. Everyone has potential to create new and better journey but our thinking perhaps shadows it. We need to see the invisible and unexplored boundary.
The boundary exists much wider and bigger outside the organization and promotion. It is better to start creating the path- sooner the better.