Why Imitation Won't Get You Promoted
In my previous post “Why Managers Lack Empowerment for Promotion,” I addressed the very disturbing fact that so many talented managers find themselves unable to get promoted. At the same time, organizations are frustrated by the fact that they are expending valuable resources recruiting managers from the outside, rather than promoting one of their own - not one of the favored career advancement solutions.
In this post, I will focus on what I call the Imitation Approach, in which managers believe they can reach success by transforming themselves into someone else - one of the popular career advancement solutions. In today’s world, the Imitation Approach has gained a great deal of traction. This seems to be for two reasons (quoting from the famous 1990s song, Mr. Vain):
1. We know what we want (or who we think we want to be).
2. We want it now.
These two simple statements are currently fueling entire self-improvement industries, including beauty, diet, medicine, and of course, career management. They promise to bring us exactly what we want - and as instantly as possible. An offer no one can refuse. But here’s a weird fact: There’s a direct correlation between the rise in so-called career management solutions and the number of managers who don’t get promoted. Sounds like it should be the reverse, right?
The reason why it’s not the reverse is that we are supporting an industry that is actually offering the impossible - transforming ourselves into someone else. But when we try to become someone else, the best job we can do is to imitate them. Any kind of imitation - even the best imitation possible - will result in only one thing: imitation. It won’t result in becoming someone else. So when we aim to be someone else by imitating them, we’re just setting ourselves up for failure.
This isn’t to say we should give up on improving ourselves. I’ll go even further by saying that looking up to someone else and learning from them is a productive way to develop ourselves. However, when the goal is to become someone else, which is impossible, then you’ll never reach it, resulting in both disappointment and frustration. Not only that, your organization will view you as having failed.
So why is it that we want to become someone else?
1. When things don’t go our way, we begin to lose faith in ourselves. Rather than strengthening our belief that we can and will get promoted, we quickly dispose of who we are and try to imitate a magical model who will lead us to our goals.
2. We are anxious for instant results and believe that taking on another persona is a viable shortcut to success.
These two main drivers in today’s career management industry continue to spread the mistaken belief that we can transform ourselves into someone else. There’s no doubt that if the Imitation Approach really worked, we would be witnessing increases in promotions, but we’re seeing just the opposite.
Therefore, I recommend that instead of relying on the Imitation Approach, consider what I call Inside Out Management (IOM). IOM shifts the focus to who you already are and what you already have - truly empowering you to fulfil your career dreams. For more on IOM, have a look at my Executive Mirror Program.
And always remember:
Great managers are made. Not born.
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