Do you know the difference between a “worker bee” and a senior executive? Have you ever wondered what it takes to move up in the world to those loftier roles? It’s pretty simple. You need to move from a world where you provide all the answers to a world where you ask all the questions.
I know there’s a cheeky clueless executive joke in there somewhere but I’m actually not joking around (today is my 40th birthday and I’ve decided I’m going to be completely serious and professional this decade and if you believe that last part, you’re obviously a new reader to the blog).
As we enter organizations and rise through the ranks, we’re expected (and trained) to have the answers. We, after all, are the front line. We do the work. When someone more senior asks us for information, our job description is to provide it. And provide it we do. We become experts in our field. We know all the answers. We become that “go to” person Scott Eblin describes in this recent post.
And every day we kick butt. We know everything that’s asked of us. Heck, we get to a point where we’ve created everything around us. But one day we wake up wondering why we’re not getting promoted. We can’t figure out why we, the expert of all experts, isn’t rising to the executive ranks. After all, those guys are clueless. All they ever do is ask questions that we have to provide the answers to.
And that my friends is the key to the paradox of advancing to senior management. Questions.