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Elements of A Promotion: Overcoming Obstacles

The following is an article by Gary Bonner.

Banner headlines sensationalize every twist and turn in the current economic turbulence we face in 2008. We face some fundamental problems in the financial markets and geo-political/economic oil supply production, how does this apply to your job, your ambitions and your career growth? Clear ideas and resolute determination result in leadership. You can have the right talents, have the right team and be at the right time, but discover you are not at the right place. You may find your efforts blocked by a management that isn’t keen with fresh new ideas or one that is simply resistant to change.

To illustrate, let’s look back at the last period of economic turbulence, one that occurred in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, and a leader who emerged to make a significant impact in our economy.

Mr. Lee Iacocca

Lee Iacocca [3] was a talented man who put together a team that revolutionized the auto industry with the introduction of the Mustang in 1964. He was at the right place, the right time, with the right group, and dazzled the market with the right talents. The group developed the “K” cars that would transform Ford’s product line from the big gas guzzling “land yachts” of the 70’s to the more fuel efficient and smaller styles we see today. Iacocca laid the ground work for generations of autos that now include hybrid fuel and alternative fuel solutions.

But Iacocca ran into one roadblock: Henry Ford II. [4] Ford was very self-centered top-down executive who saw Iaccoca and his ideas as a threat to Ford’s position as CEO of the company his grandfather founded. Ford didn’t want “K” cars. He liked “land yachts”. Iacocca had the right motivation. Ford did not accept it.

Iacocca’s motivation was to bring an alternative American solution to the fast rising competition from the Japanese, who were making terrific inroads into the American car market. So, when Chrysler, as it faced bankruptcy and liquidation because of its unappealing fleet and stodgy approach to the market, recruited Iacocca, he left. They welcomed Iacocca as its new CEO and embraced his ideas wholeheartedly.

Not only did Iacocca have to transform a failing giant, he had to convince bankers to keep Chrysler afloat while he could accomplish his vision. Iacocca had to go to Congress to get government loan guarantees. He had to jawbone, the then powerful, auto unions for concessions. Finally, he raided Ford and recruited his former teams to assist in quickly re-tool Chrysler’s product line. Finally, he had to sell his new ideas to a doubtful market that was in the depths of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Iacocca was successful and was hailed as a tremendous leader and business icon.

The bottom line and the take-away for us today is that if your motivation is correct and all the other elements of a promotion are at hand, you may still be blocked from achieving your goal. By objectively analyzing the situation at your job, you can still overcome obstacles and achieve your goals. Lee Iacocca could have sat back and accepted a lesser role and enjoyed a very rich lifestyle at Ford. He chose to “risk” his security and comfort to achieve what he confidently believed was best for his market even in hard times.

The world has changed significantly since Iaccoca made his mark in the early 1980’s. Chrysler was “too big to fail” because it would have had a terrible impact on the American economy. While still a large company today, Chrysler is not a major company that would warrant special consideration by the Federal government for a “bail out”. If fact, there is discussion that General Motors may seek bankruptcy and possible dissolution because of outstanding labor contracted retiree and employee benefits that it can no longer afford. Ford and even the formerly impregnable Toyota reported plunging sales and profits for the first half of 2008.

Even as we see unemployment rising from historic lows and rumors of lay-offs, there is still opportunity in our careers. The longed for promotion at your present company may not occur, but the talents, the motivation and the determination to meet your goals will find the right place at the right time. We may not fully recognize it until we view it in 20-20 hindsight, but opportunity is always available for the industrious person.

Gary Bonner has spent the last 35 years in commercial & consumer finance, equipment leasing and factoring for 4 of the largest financial organizations world-wide. He served as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 manufacturer and also started and operated a successful small business. He graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Finance from the University of Oklahoma and now resides in San Diego, CA.