Are you caught in the results trap? - SmartBrief

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Are you caught in the results trap?

3 min read


If you produce excellent results but don’t feel like you’re moving up the leadership ladder (or around the jungle gym) fast enough, take a look to see if your excellent work is holding you back.

Here’s what it feels like to be stuck in the results trap: You do good work, produce good results and expect to be promoted because of it.

The solution isn’t to start producing crap, it’s to realize the producing good results is the ticket to the leadership shortlist, not the draft pick. Women in particular can fall into this trap, but it’s not a gender-specific problem. Both genders bump their heads into this kind of glass ceiling, where the skills, talents and results that help them succeed at the level of middle management are different than the ones needed to break into the top ranks.

Specifically, recruiters say that while they look for work ethic and results to promote people into middle management, they screen for strategic perspective and business acumen to promote people.

In short, producing good results is a sign of good management but not always good leadership. Even in difficult circumstances, where leadership is needed to produce good results, you may not be managing up in ways that demonstrate the additional value you could bring to leadership decisions. Managing up is its own skill, of course, and one of the quickest ways to grab the attention of your bosses and potential sponsors is to demonstrate thought leadership.

Here’s a tip on how to manage up and position yourself for leadership at the same time: Help the folks at the top think about their leadership challenges differently (and more constructively), and they’re more likely to want you up there doing some of the leadership thinking.

Think managing up is all a bunch of silly politics? Politics is really the art of getting people, who by definition see the world differently, to work together. If the politics put you off where you are, maybe you need to look elsewhere, but if genuinely not interested in getting people to work together across divides, leadership may not be your next step.

Want to explore your own leadership voice? Join me for a complimentary webinar on how to use thought leadership to accelerate (or unstick) your career.

Dana Theus is president and CEO of InPower Consulting, reframing leadership to help high-achieving women and enlightened men find their voice and create change. Follow her also at, on Twitter @DanaTheus and on LinkedIn.