Author: Ian Mathews Source: Forbes
Nothing signals your professional arrival like a promotion.
Increasing responsibility validates your hard work, track record and high ceiling. A promotion is an honor that simply can’t be turned down by anyone serious about their career.
But what if accepting that thinking is flawed? What if an elevated role leaves you downtrodden? What if you don’t want this prize? Can you say no?
Last week, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Hall of Fame basketball star and business mogul, stunned the basketball world by abruptly stepping down from his role as President of the Los Angeles Lakers.
In a lengthy interview with reporters, one thing was clear. Mr. Johnson was miserable in that role. “I want to go back to having fun,” Mr. Johnson said. “I want to go back to being who I was before taking on this job.”
How could the franchise’s most recognizable star not enjoy running the storied organization where he made a name for himself? What went wrong?
In 2001, I worked in sales for General Electric. I loved that first role, working long hours in a position that showcased my strengths. I interacted with people all day, thought strategically and thrived in the high pressure, adrenaline-packed arena.
Jack Welch was retiring, but his imprint was firmly embedded in the culture. Jack had his initiatives, and if you wanted to move up in GE, you needed to buy in. No initiative was dearer to Welch than Six Sigma.
The process improvement methodology was prominently featured in all of Jack’s books. You felt the pressure to participate. Regardless of your position, you found a way to get certified and work on a project, lest you be cast out as a misfit.
Six Sigma has its language, and those holding positions within its ranks have titles straight from a karate dojo. I held a “Green Belt,” which meant that I attended a three-day course on spreadsheet manipulation and had weaseled my way onto a forgettable project.
A Six Sigma position of “Black Belt” opened, which was a full-time role and a level up from my little role of sales engineer. I received a call from the hiring manager who asked me if I would take the role. Apparently, I turned some heads in the Six Sigma community from my short stint of saying “I agree” frequently on conference calls.
I had a decision to make, and the clock was ticking. With the help of a mentor, I evaluated the decision with several questions that would serve me well over the next 20 years.
Why do I want to take this job?
The answer to this question needs to be deeper than pay, title and prestige. Do your eyes light up when you talk about the opportunity? Envision a day in the role. What will you be doing on an hourly basis? How will this promotion serve you?
Mr. Johnson boasts an impressive professional resume. Chairman and CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises, Mr. Johnson has an ownership interest in several professional sports franchises, including the Los Angeles Dodgers. He also controls companies in financial services, television, food services and more.
Mr. Johnson is devoted to the Lakers brand and committed to seeing the program return to prominence. A fierce competitor, he saw an opportunity to grab the wheel and steer the franchise in a new direction.