The Pursuit of Promotion: Myths, Realities and Personal Reflections

In the employment world, the allure of climbing the ladder is undeniable. The promise of higher status, increased salary and greater recognition often drives us to relentlessly pursue promotions. Yet, amidst this pursuit, we often overlook the profound impact it can have on our well-being, our relationships and even somewhat ironically, the quality of our work. For many, the pursuit of promotion is just like chasing a mirage in the desert. We believe that achieving the next fancy title or level will bring us lasting satisfaction and fulfilment. We believe that once we have it, we will have “made it”. However, research indicates otherwise. According to a study by Gallup, only 33% of employees in the UK feel engaged at work, suggesting that the pursuit of promotions does not necessarily lead to increased happiness or fulfilment. What fuels this fixation for many of us? Is it the glamourised portrayals in movies? Perhaps the achievements we witness in friends and family? Or could it be an intrinsic trait ingrained in our species? The truth is, the obsession with chasing promotion can be influenced by all of these factors and more, including societal norms, personal experiences and innate human tendencies. Movies, television shows and other forms of media often depict success as synonymous with climbing the ladder. Characters who achieve high status and wealth through promotions are frequently portrayed as role models, reinforcing the idea that upward mobility is the ultimate measure of success. Fictional I know, but in the sitcom “The Office,” created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, characters like Tim Canterbury (played by Martin Freeman) and Gareth Keenan (portrayed by Mackenzie Crook) are in a constant competition for promotion and better positions within the fictional Wernham Hogg Paper Company. Their ambitions and interactions with each other and colleagues highlight the common theme of career advancement as a measure of success in the workplace. Even Gervais’ character, David Brent, the boss, is deeply entrenched in this obsession with stature, titles and climbing the ladder. Every action and interaction he takes, seems geared toward looking good and being the best. In his own mind, he believes he’s achieving exactly that, but to those observing from the outside, he falls well short of his own self-perception. Reflecting on this, it’s worth asking ourselves if we’ve ever exhibited “Brent-like” behaviours. Have we ever been so consumed by the pursuit of promotions and status that we lose sight of how we’re perceived by others? It’s a question that prompts introspection and reminds us of the importance of staying grounded and authentic in our professional pursuits. Cultural values and societal expectations undeniably shape our perceptions of career advancement. In cultures that prioritise individual achievement and status, pursuing promotions is often seen as crucial for personal fulfilment and social validation. Many organisations are structured to facilitate a progressive ascent into more senior positions over time. However, there are individuals who defy this conventional trajectory, they have no interest in chasing the proverbial carrot – they break the traditional mould and defy the system! So, how do we motivate these individuals who aren’t driven by the allure of promotion? For me, the answer lies in treating them with respect, making them feel valued, and encouraging their contributions wherever possible. By recognising their unique skills and strengths, and providing opportunities for growth and development that align with their interests and values, we can foster a sense of belonging and purpose within the organisation. Ultimately, by creating an inclusive and supportive environment, we can inspire all employees to excel and contribute to the collective success of the team. We naturally learn by observing the behaviour of those around us, particularly friends, family members and colleagues. If we see others being rewarded for their career advancement, we may internalise the belief that promotion is necessary for happiness and success. Additionally, witnessing the struggles and sacrifices that others make in their pursuit of promotion can create a sense of peer pressure or societal expectations to follow a similar path. From an evolutionary perspective, humans are wired to seek out opportunities for status and social dominance. In ancestral environments, individuals who held higher social status often had greater access to resources, mating opportunities and protection from threats. This drive for status and recognition may be hardwired into our brains, leading us to pursue promotions as a means of elevating our social standing and securing our place within the group. You could perhaps argue that this is still the same now, just those resources look different, but are still the same in context. Ultimately, our desire for promotion may also stem from individual aspirations and goals. For some, the pursuit of advancement may be driven by a genuine passion for their work, a desire for greater influence or impact, or a sense of personal achievement. Additionally, promotion often comes with tangible rewards such as higher salaries, better benefits and increased job security, which can provide a powerful incentive for individuals seeking to improve their financial and professional well-being. Constantly striving for promotion can take a toll on our mental and physical health too. The pressure to perform, the fear of failure, and the relentless pursuit of success can lead to stress, burnout and even serious health issues. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that individuals who prioritise promotion over other aspects of their lives experience higher levels of stress and lower job satisfaction. Initially, I found this statistic surprising, however as I digested it over (another) hot, velvety, cinnamon latte, I found myself at the other end of the spectrum, thinking that actually I am not surprised at all! I recall many times over the years feeling completely fried as a result of leading the charge for that next step. As I mentioned before, the obsession with climbing the ladder can negatively impact the quality of our work. According to a survey conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), 37% of employees reported

Learning by Doing: Bridging the Gap Between Theory and Practice

In the often-daunting world of education and personal development, there exists a transformative approach to learning that transcends traditional methods: “Learning by Doing (LBD)”. This dynamic method emphasises hands-on experiences and active engagement, fostering deeper understanding, enhanced retention and profound inspiration. I first encountered the LBD approach in the early 2000s while studying World Class Manufacturing. It fell under the aptly named “People Development Pillar” and proved to be a truly dynamic approach that empowers employees to continually learn, adapt and innovate in response to evolving challenges and opportunities. It embodies the principle that practical experience and application are essential drivers of success and excellence in operations. Let’s delve into why this approach yields such positive benefits and explore its impact on learning styles, engagement and inspiration. One of the key strengths of LBD is its ability to accommodate diverse learning styles. From visual and auditory learners to kinaesthetic and tactile learners, this method provides a multi-sensory experience that caters to various preferences. Unlike passive learning approaches, such as lectures or readings, active learning encourages participants to immerse themselves in practical tasks, enabling them to grasp concepts more effectively. Age and experience agnostic, active learning ignites a spark of curiosity and passion within learners, driving them to explore, experiment and discover. By actively participating in tasks, individuals feel a sense of ownership over their learning journey, leading to increased motivation and engagement. Whether it’s through simulations, group projects, or hands-on activities, learners are actively involved in the process, making learning more enjoyable and meaningful. One of the greatest strengths of LBD is its ability to bridge the gap between theory and practice. By applying theoretical concepts in real-world scenarios, learners gain a deeper understanding of how ideas manifest in practical settings. This experiential learning approach not only enhances comprehension but also inspires creativity and innovation. Real-life examples and case studies serve as catalysts for inspiration, demonstrating the tangible impact of knowledge in action. I’ll get to some of these in a bit. While LBD offers many benefits, it’s essential to acknowledge potential challenges. One common concern is the time and resources required to implement hands-on activities effectively. Additionally, some learners may initially feel uncomfortable stepping out of their comfort zones or fear making mistakes or embarrassing themselves. These are real concerns, often routed in how we feel others perceive us. Despite these perceptions are often inaccurate, as a leader, it’s important to emphasise right at the start of any LBD experience, that this is a safe space, no judgement and no wrong answer. Set the scene correctly, and these challenges are often outweighed by the invaluable insights, skills and confidence gained through active learning experiences. A quick Google search and you’ll soon find numerous studies that support the effectiveness of LBD. According to a report by the National Training Laboratories, individuals retain 75% of information learned through hands-on activities compared to only 5% through lecture-style learning. That’s an incredible statistic, but not surprising. Just the word ‘lecture’ switches me off! It creates visions of being ‘spoken at’ and for want of a better word, ‘lectured’! Nope, not for me thanks! So, I promised some examples of LBD. My son loves coding, it unleashes his innovative mind to create some wonderful, yet complex in my mind, digital masterpieces. To learn this skill, he’s attended coding bootcamp. These are excellent as they offer hands-on programs that immerse learners in coding and software development. Rather than traditional classroom lectures, these bootcamps focus on practical coding exercises, projects and real-world challenges. He’s been learning by actively writing code, debugging errors and building applications, gaining practical skills that are directly applicable to the future career aspirations he has in technology. Medical schools and healthcare institutions utilise simulated training environments to provide hands-on experience to learners. Simulation labs offer realistic scenarios where learners can practice medical procedures, surgical techniques and patient care in a safe and controlled setting. This enables learners to enhance their clinical skills, decision-making abilities and confidence in handling real-life emergencies. To a lesser extent the LBD method is applied an all first aid courses I have attended over the years. We’ll all no doubt, recognise the torso dummy that comes out for some CPR. The most common example of an LBD approach comes in modern apprenticeship programs. These provide individuals with hands-on training and mentorship in various skilled trades and industries. Apprentices work alongside experienced professionals to gain practical experience, technical skills and industry-specific knowledge. These programs typically combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction, allowing apprentices to learn by actively performing tasks and receiving real-time feedback from mentors. What better way to learn! LBD is not a modern approach either, historic examples, such as the apprenticeship model in medieval Europe or the Montessori method developed by Maria Montessori, highlight the enduring success of active learning approaches throughout history. These examples illustrate how LBD is all around us, providing practical, experiential learning opportunities that empower learners to acquire new skills, deepen their understanding and prepare for success in their chosen fields. My conclusion, LBD transcends traditional education paradigms, offering a transformative approach that engages, inspires and empowers learners. By embracing diverse learning styles, igniting passion and curiosity and bridging theory with practice, this method fosters deeper understanding and long-lasting skills. Fancy a taste of LBD? Get ready because I’ve got some exciting news! I’m absolutely buzzing to announce the “Ever-So-Lean, Lean Thinking 5S Workshop” happening on March 19th, 2024, at the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce HQ in Ashford, Kent. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill workshop; it’s a hands-on, interactive journey into the world of Continuous Improvement. We’re talking about rolling up your sleeves, getting stuck in and experiencing first-hand what it means to apply 5S. At this workshop, you’ll have the chance to dive into Lean Thinking through interactive sessions, practical exercises and plenty of networking opportunities. It’s not just about learning; it’s about doing. So, whether you’re a seasoned pro or just dipping your toes into the world of Continuous Improvement,

Unlocking Potential: The Mutual Benefits of Mentorship

Mentorship, it’s a dynamic relationship grounded in mutual growth and learning, that plays a pivotal role in personal and professional development. Whether you find yourself in the role of a Mentor, guiding a Mentee through the labyrinth of career choices or seeking guidance as a Mentee, both roles offer unique perspectives and opportunities for growth. In this blog, we will explore the essence of being a Mentor and a Mentee, the criteria for these roles, essential skills for effective mentoring and the tangible benefits derived from these relationships. There’s often a misconception that the need for a Mentor is something associated with lower-level leadership. This couldn’t be further from the truth, in fact some of my most valuable Mentor relationships have come in my Senior Leadership roles. While mentorship programs often spotlight more junior employees or those in the early stages of their careers, mentorship is applicable at all organisational levels, including upper management and executive tiers. We all have opportunities to improve, learn and grow, whatever your job title or role, that doesn’t change. Nobody is the complete package, despite perception. In reality, mentoring relationships at higher echelons can be equally if not more impactful. This is particularly true as individuals grapple with intricate leadership challenges, strategic decision-making and the intricacies of organisational dynamics. Senior Leaders can gain significant value from the guidance of seasoned Mentors who have adeptly navigated analogous situations, providing valuable insights. There’s no greater lesson than that of experience. Mentorship isn’t restricted by organisational hierarchy either, instead it’s a dynamic process fostering professional development, continual learning and knowledge sharing across different levels. Establishing mentorship relationships across various management tiers creates a more healthy, inclusive and supportive organisational culture, promoting the exchange of expertise and enhancing overall leadership capabilities. When applying for roles in the past, an established mentoring program is something that I have consciously looked for in the organisation’s DNA. Recognising and having one tells a lot about the type of organisation I was applying for, equally telling if there wasn’t one too! Let’s take a moment to define what the roles of a Mentor and a Mentee actually is: Mentoring is not merely dispensing advice, and it’s certainly not telling someone what to do. It’s a nuanced practice rooted in sharing experiences and fostering growth. As a Mentor, the responsibility extends beyond offering solutions to encouraging independent thinking and problem-solving. As a Mentor, I feel that it’s my role to inspire, encourage and empower my Mentee to achieve their goals. I make it my responsibility to ensure that my Mentee leaves every meeting with me feeling motivated and empowered to continue their journey. For me, you should only consider becoming a Mentor when you have accumulated sufficient experience, skills and insights in a particular field to add value to someone seeking growth. The mentorship role requires commitment, time investment, patience and the ability to tailor guidance to the individual needs of your Mentee. Equally, the ability to actively listen, inspire and coach are skillsets that are present in any great Mentor. Let’s look into these skills in a little more detail: Active Listening: A Mentor should possess the ability to listen actively, understanding the mentee’s concerns and providing thoughtful responses. Empathy: Empathy is the cornerstone of effective mentorship. Understanding the Mentee’s perspective fosters a supportive and constructive relationship. Guidance, Not Dictation: A successful Mentor guides rather than dictates. Encouraging critical thinking helps mentees develop their own problem-solving skills. Constructive Feedback: Providing constructive and actionable feedback is crucial for a Mentee’s growth. It should be specific, focused and aimed at improvement. But what about the role of a Mentee? Choosing to seek a Mentor is a strategic move in one’s personal or professional journey. The key word here being “choosing”. There is little value for a Mentee or the Mentor in a relationship that is driven out of a directive. Pushing development onto people seldom ends is success, rather it needs to come from a place of “pull”. Seeking a Mentor during transitional phases such as career changes, entering a new industry or facing complex challenges are the most common times I’ve found occurrence. Seeking a Mentor demonstrates a proactive approach to personal development and a willingness to learn from others’ experiences. Knowing yourself, and being in a psychologically safe environment where you feel comfortable to be open and honest about where you see opportunity in yourself is important. Often a mentorship journey begins with an initial meeting, a pivotal moment for both Mentor and Mentee to establish a foundation of understanding. This encounter is kind of like speed dating, you want to see if there is a professional spark, some common ground you share in a very short period of time. It serves as an opportunity to delve into each other’s professional backgrounds, goals and expectations of each of in the relationship. It’s crucial to approach this meeting with an open mind, acknowledging that mentorship is a relationship that thrives on mutual respect and compatibility. This initial interaction should feel comfortable and encouraging, allowing both parties to express their needs and aspirations openly. Importantly, this meeting sets the stage for either party to assess whether the Mentor-Mentee relationship aligns with their expectations and objectives. Recognising that not every pairing is destined for success is essential. It’s perfectly acceptable for either the Mentor or Mentee to conclude that the chemistry or objectives aren’t harmonious. This openness to the possibility of a mismatch ensures that both individuals can actively seek a more fitting mentorship connection elsewhere, maximising the potential benefits for everyone involved. Many times, over the years I’ve cried “I’m not a celebrity, get me out of here” following this initial get together. It’s not personal, it’s just not right for me for one reason or another. Statistically, mentorship has shown positive impacts on both Mentors and Mentees. According to a study by the Society for Training and Development, employees who were mentored experienced higher job satisfaction (68%) compared to those who were

Finding Yourself: A Personal Narrative of Self Confidence

Life is a journey, and each of us is running our own race—a race filled with triumphs, challenges and self-discovery. Yet, as we navigate along our individual winding and weaving paths, it’s not uncommon to look around and perceive that everyone else seems to be miles ahead, exuding an unwavering confidence that we ourselves might find elusive. Thinking about myself, I recall so many times, looking at people who I had self-proclaimed to be “successful”, and long to be “like” them, “if only I could look like them, sound like them or have what they’ve got”, rather than embracing who I am and the unique tapestry of strengths and vulnerabilities that make us who we are. Research from the National Confidence Index’s 2023 survey reveal a fascinating trend in confidence levels across age groups. The data illustrates that individuals in their teens and early twenties reported a confidence level of 45%, whereas those in their thirties and beyond exhibited a substantial increase, boasting a confidence level of 68%+. Interesting eh!? These statistics underline the dynamic nature of confidence, with age playing a pivotal role in shaping one’s self-assurance. If I overlay this to my life, this data aligns 100% to my own personal confidence. I often say that as I have aged, I have grown into myself, becoming happy and confident in who I am and belief in my choices and decisions. The aging process really does allow for self-discovery and a deeper understanding of personal strengths and weaknesses. Life experiences, both positive and negative, contribute to the development of resilience and a more robust sense of self. As we age, we become less swayed by the opinions of others and more focused on embracing our authenticity. We tend to be less concerned about fitting in or being liked, and more occupied with getting to bed before 10pm and getting a good lie-in in the morning, or whether to go for the Brooklyn matt emulsion or the Melville silk for the lounge. No longer am I going to places that I do not want to go to, just because everyone else goes there. I’m not drinking a drink that I don’t like because everyone else does. In fact, in the nicest possible way, I don’t care if you like me or not, I’m me and right now I’m cool with that. As someone who has personally battled with confidence issues, I understand the impact of feeling marginalised. Being a victim of bullying, dismissed by teachers, desperate to fit in, be liked and facing the limitations both society and I placed on myself for a long time have left lasting scars. These experiences made me believe that I had no future and that being myself was a hindrance rather than an asset. Being me just wasn’t good enough. It was almost like by putting on an act and being more like “others”, I had a safety net. Meaning that if I wasn’t liked or didn’t connect with someone whilst I was wearing this mask, I’d tell myself it didn’t matter as that wasn’t really me. Or at least looking back now that’s how I would best describe it. It seems silly now, but at the time it was my way of masking who I was and that got me by. It feels somewhat ironic that at a time in our lives when we are making arguably some big decisions about our futures, we are at our lowest in terms of self-confidence. On one hand we are encouraged to forge our own path, decide what’s next, go get em’ and the world is your oyster! Yet internally we doubt ourselves and look for acceptance from others to feel valued and respected. But what do the experts say? Renowned psychologist and author of “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dr. Carol Dweck talks of the importance of adopting a growth mindset to cultivate self-belief over time. “Embrace the power of ‘yet.’ The mindset that success is a journey, not a destination, allows for the development of self-belief over time.” Researcher, storyteller and author of “The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown encourages us to embrace vulnerability as a source of strength, fostering genuine self-belief. “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. That fosters real self-belief.” Entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker, Tony Robbins advocates for a solutions-focused mindset, urging individuals to concentrate on what they can control to build self-belief. “Identify your problems but give your power and energy to solutions. Building self-belief involves focusing on what you can control and taking positive action.” Quotes like these make such sense now, but would they have done thirty years ago? I’m not sure, I doubt I’d even have picked up a book in the first place! So, before I tell you what advice I would give my younger self, I must tell you that moments like these bring to mind the dulcet tones of Kat Stevens (Yusuf Islam) in 1970, or more my era, the 1995 cover by Ronan Keating and Boyzone singing the hit “Father & Son”. The song is like a musical heart-to-heart about a father and his son (hence the name). The dad’s saying, “Hey, learn from my blunders, and life will treat you better.” But the son’s all about doing things his own way, finding himself and living life on his own terms. For me, it’s lyrics capture the real feels of growing up, family dynamics and figuring out who you are. I think it’s a timeless story that hits you right in the guts, and would not at all be surprised if parents in one hundred years are thinking the same.  Anyway, back to my tips for cultivating self-belief! Acknowledge Your Strengths: Make a list of your achievements, skills and positive qualities. Reflect on them regularly to reinforce a positive self-image. Set Realistic Goals: Break down your long-term goals into smaller, achievable steps