By Marie Moran

Not long ago, I walked into a one-on-one coaching session with a client who was poised to present her issue for the day’s discussion. Her manager had recently spoken to her about the expression, “What got you here won’t get you to the next level,” and my client was concerned about how this concept might apply to her. Specifically, she recognized that up until now she’d been known as a cordial, collaborative person, always willing to lend a hand and include others in her project management. Now, with increased responsibilities in a new role, her manager was expecting her to use strong impact/influence skills to compete for project resources, and thus become more direct and assertive. My client was concerned that her compassionate nature would now become a detriment, and that she needed to be more of a tough guy!

Possibly you’ve heard that same expression and wondered if it applied to you – or if there is any truth in it! The basic premise is that if you have a certain skill set or disposition, as you progress in your career, those same attributes may not be enough to propel you into a higher role in leadership. Or, as with my client, some traits may be perceived as actual blocks to your effectiveness in an expanded role. One example of this would be a highly detailed leader who can’t seem to delegate and still micromanages.

I counseled my worried client to look at her situation a bit differently, in a more expansive light. I said, “Let’s examine the truth versus the illusion here. It’s easy to listen to an expression like ‘What got you here…’ and because it sounds reasonable on the surface, we buy into that concept hook, line and sinker without using our full discernment. The truth is, many such expressions sound good but are really illusionary.  Therefore they pull us out of balance.”  She nodded in agreement.

Continuing on, I said, “Consider yourself like the tree which keeps growing year after year. After the tree is cut down, one can see a ring of growth in the wood for each year of the tree’s life.  Like that tree, your compassion and softer style is one “ring” of who you are at your core.  But now, you’re being asked to grow and develop some new assertive ‘muscles’ and character traits. You don’t have to leave behind the old; rather, you expand into the new and are able to do even more than you could before. You can still be compassionate and considerate, yet learn how to be direct and assertive, too.”

Hey, don’t we all want our leaders to be strong yet compassionate? You can possess both qualities – one is not exclusive of the other.  So that’s an important perspective to remember.  As you analyze your strengths and weaknesses, be inclusive, not exclusive, in your perspective about yourself. Exclusive means thinking that you now have to suppress or deny some part of yourself to fit in. This will definitely get you off track and you’ll be shutting down a part of your expression thinking it’s not proper! Inclusive means you are now adding new rings of ability as you keep growing. You stay in discovery, recognizing what you’re being asked to learn and develop next.

Let’s acknowledge all of ourselves – what got you here and why, the soft and the strong, the weak and the wondrous!  Embrace it all and keep on learning!

© 2017 Marie Moran