For the first 20 years of my career, every time I was promoted, I felt “lucky.” It took me that long to realize it wasn’t luck at all.
During 15 of those years, I worked with a U.S. paper manufacturer. I advanced my way up through the sales division to become Sales Director. I shifted into the company’s marketing operation and eventually was named Director of Market Development and Sales.
Strategies I led increased revenues by $78 million and improved mill productivity by 35%. Yet every time I was promoted, I felt like I had been lucky. Every single time.
Nevertheless, Accenture saw something in me and hired me away. They gave me a big salary and a big title, and I still thought I was the luckiest person around.
At Accenture, as I applied my skills and expertise to helping other companies grow, I finally started to see it. The knowledge, insights, and abilities I had developed over the years were all very valuable to Accenture and our clients. I was very valuable.
In less than a year, I was promoted to Associate Partner, a rapid ascent that was unheard of at Accenture. And I finally knew that it had nothing to do with luck.
At Signature, we cover this theme in our programs, but it is time to revisit.
How do you create your own “luck”? How do you prepare to capitalize on your next opportunity?
There is no shortcut for this. How will you grow and become a better you?
Planning your growth and development is as important as planning the daily tasks and responsibilities of your work. It’s as important as planning your personal and family responsibilities.
One of the members of my personal board of advisors uses the expression, “Think big. Start small. Move fast.”
When you set your growth goals, dream big. Bold ambitions are how we stretch ourselves.
But it’s not enough to set and regularly review your ambitious goals. You also have to break those goals down into specific, manageable steps you can take each day in order to achieve them.
And then you have to do the work.
I often have big goals, such as confirming 30 women for our next program. But unless I plan out my day with the calls I need to make and the follow-up actions required, I cannot achieve this goal. The goals are only the beginning. I still have to plan and do the work.
2. Not losing, but learning
No one wants to lose, but you can transform your negative experiences into opportunities to learn and grow.
When that opportunity to learn is in front of you, take a moment to dissect what went wrong. How did the situation unfold? Write it down. Review it. Reflect.
Then get an outside perspective. Seeing what went wrong through another person’s lens will often give you a richer understanding of the situation. It will help you plan a more comprehensive approach the next time around.
3. Opening new pathways
Opportunity does not always find you. You have to show it the way!
So many of us are living in our COVID-19 bubbles. We’ve stopped creating new connections outside of our immediate work teams.
Our “bonding” capital within our own teams has gone way up during the pandemic. We have gotten to know our teams more personally, and more deeply. That’s a great win.
But because we are not in our offices, we have stopped having chance encounters. We’ve lost much of the “bridging” capital that connects us across teams. And without hearing their diverse viewpoints and experiences, we can’t take in new perspectives or unlock fresh ideas.
Building your relationship currency outside of your own team opens up new opportunities. It allows you to share with other potential influencers just how you do your job. They get a richer understanding of who you are, an understanding that’s based on more than your reports or what you deliver.
Make it one of your weekly goals to engage with two new people from different business units, functions, or companies. Each new connection opens a new pathway along which opportunity can find you.
4. Keeping some space for stillness
All of the above help you prepare to meet and create opportunity. But you won’t recognize the opportunity when it is right in front of you if you can’t lift your head out of your daily grind to see it. In her book, The Gifts of Imperfections, Brené Brown advocates for stillness. Here is what she says:
Stillness is not about focusing on nothingness; it's about creating a clearing. It’s opening up an emotionally clutter-free space and allowing ourselves to feel and think and dream and question.
When was the last time you found a few moments for stillness? Even if you just take five minutes at the end of the day — closing your laptop and hitting the pause button before you rush off to the next thing — it may reveal a new vision of what your future could be.
Stillness creates and nurtures an outside perspective, a “thinking partner” who is with you all the time.
When I make time for stillness regularly, I find that the conversations simmer in my head in between those quiet moments. Sometime later they come back to me with more clarity. And this clarity allows me to recognize new opportunities, then take decisive action to make the most of them.
Create Your Own “Luck”
While COVID-19 may have isolated us over the past year, don’t let that keep you from creating the opportunities that will advance your goals and your career. Here’s to creating your own “luck.”
And when someone says, “Congratulations on your promotion!” reply, “Thank you. I’ve worked hard for this opportunity, and I’m excited to take it on.”