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The road to promotion is not hard work and crowning

   The most important transition early in the workplace is from waiting for recognition to gaining support.

  As a leader, in fact, I dare not.

  Beginning as a project manager, I have become one of many excellent middle-level members of McKinsey.

  Around the same time, I started to focus on gender issues. At that time, there were many excellent women at the managerial level, but at the top, there were significantly fewer women. There were structural restrictions on women in the workplace. But I don’t know if female friends have asked themselves, if there are no external constraints, do we dare and want to be big leaders?

  At the time, I honestly didn't want to.

  At the time, I was an excellent project manager, experienced the first two stages of growth, worked beautifully, and was confident. On the one hand, I am very "high" and disdain to think about promotion; on the other hand, I am not used to some things in the company and do not want to "mix" with the affairs of the senior management.

  I think that many friends who are down-to-earth work may have this kind of ambivalence after entering the workplace for a few years.

  Because "high and lofty" is often a compliment in our culture, and going up seems to be vain and greedy for power.

  There was a white American male leader in the company that I really disliked - rhetoric, not doing real things, and often taking credit for the team's work. But he is the leader, and I can't escape for a while. I think, if the upper management is like this, then I might as well quit! I still have an inexplicable sense of nobility when I think that I left my job because I insisted on principles.

  Depressed, I called Connie, my former project manager. She is a small, frail-looking but particularly insightful Singaporean lady. When I wanted to do a project in China earlier, although she only joined the company a year before me and did not have many high-level acquaintances, she spared no effort to help me contact the leaders she knew, and finally helped me make the trip, so I am very grateful.

  This time I told her that the leadership I saw was disappointing, so I didn't want to do the job. She listened to my complaints and asked me: Yinuo, compared with your leader, do you think what you believe and insist on is correct? I said: of course it is. She said: Then I tell you, the only way to make what you insist on become a reality is to be the leader yourself. If you leave, what's the point of your persistence? No changes will be made to these issues. If you go to another company, you will encounter the same problem.

  These words sounded like a blow to me. I began to have a subtle change in my heart, and this change gradually accumulated, and I began to let go of my "high-mindedness" and work hard to be promoted to associate director and partner.

  Waiting for the Crown and Shame

  By 2010, after more than four years of employment, I successfully became an Associate Director. But when I made up my mind to become a managing partner, I hit another hurdle in my career.

  In the McKinsey environment at the time, becoming a partner was a big deal, not the same as being promoted to an associate director. In my opinion at the time, if you want to become a partner, one of the things you have to do is to "run the relationship" and find someone to be your supporter. At that time, I despised this kind of behavior: I didn't do business when I had a good time, "buying an official vend" for myself, the posture was too ugly.

  I reflect on myself and have 3 knots in my heart.

  1. Wait for the crown. Subconsciously, it is what we have been taught that "gold will always shine" - if my ability is strong and my business is good, someone "above" will naturally see my ability, and I will be "appointed" as a partner. It's like a princess waiting for someone to put a crown on her.

  2. Shame. Ask yourself for a promotion? That is shameful! We are taught the philosophy of life that it is shameful to be a leader for personal advancement and fame.

  3. "Not doing the right thing". There is a deep-rooted concept in my mind that spending time running the business is business, and spending time "running relationships" for promotion is a waste of time and not doing business.

  Several conversations with leaders I respected at that time made me open up these three knots.

  1. Abandon the "crown thinking." Being seen "above" is an abstract concept and impractical. The reality is that everyone is busy, especially senior leaders, and may not necessarily see you. So when we do something, we must take the initiative to speak out, say something, and be neither humble nor arrogant. This is also the responsibility of work.

  2. Let go of shame. Promotion is for greater influence, not for personal fame and fortune, individuals are just a tool to get things done. If things are right and can be done well, it doesn't matter whether you look good or not. The truth is, no one cares that much about your posture but yourself.

  3. Gaining support is also doing things. There are complex organizations in all workplace environments, and the flow of information in complex organizations is often not efficient and smooth. Therefore, in addition to doing specific business, seeking more understanding and support from leaders and colleagues is not an extra action, but a part of doing things.

  Once these knots were opened, I dared to honestly say to myself: I want to be a leader.

  In McKinsey's partner selection process, a senior partner who has no interaction with me will interview the leaders, colleagues and subordinates who have worked with me over the years.

  So I started to meet relevant colleagues and leaders, let them know about my work results and career goals generously, and get them to support me in realizing my career vision. In this way, when the partners are selected, they can give a comprehensive opinion.

  After this process, I was selected as a partner as scheduled, which was at the end of 2011, only 6 years after I joined McKinsey. At that time, I was still carrying "one and a half" children (the second child was in the womb), which was a typical example of inspiration.

  After crossing that hurdle, and looking back, I found that many women did not rise further in the workplace, and actually lost to not "thinking". Of course, our ability and performance must also grow, but what pulls us back is often not lack of ability, but the three mentalities mentioned above-waiting for the crown, shame and narrow definition of business.

  True growth comes from seeing and facing the dilemma within yourself. Conversations with ourselves can lead us to discover that a lot of what we believe subconsciously is not necessarily true. And these subconscious rules, we are often unaware, so we never challenge them, thinking that they are justified.

  In fact, nothing is natural. Many "natural" restrictions come from our hearts. When we realize this, the road in the workplace will become wider and wider.


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