Elements of a Job Promotion

The following is a guest post by Gary Bonner.

A commenter from my last post “Making a Living, Or Making a Life” had a slight disagreement with my quote that “no one ever lies on their deathbed wishing they had spent more time in the office.” In the balancing life of modern America the commenter expressed that “there are plenty of people working past the age of 62 and even those who are retired that say to themselves ‘if I had only gotten that promotion.”


His mention of age 62 or even those retired who may have regret for not getting a promotion appears to be a concern about the higher earning power that comes with higher positions in corporations. Retirement planning and savings are a central focus in everyone’s career in today’s workplace. The objective is to maximize return on investment while increasing savings contributions when salaries and bonuses are rising.

There are other reasons beyond financial concerns for people regretting the missed opportunity for promotion. People in corporations value promotions because it indicates achievement, responsibility, trust and confidence expressed by the corporate manager/owner that the person can tackle the challenges of their new roles. The new promotion more readily “defines” the person in the group and often grants them higher privilege that others in the organization must accept. And at the bottom line, it is a boost to the ego that “these guys are finally seeing the light”.

While we don’t have to dig too deep into our thoughts to find the desire for a promotion, what are the elements of how a promotion occurs and what drives the individual to achieve it? The elements that provide the highest probability of success are familiar and can be extended further: the right place, the right time, the right group, the right set of talents and the right motivation. Let’s look at an illustration that identify these elements.

General Patton & General Eisenhower

General George S Patton was without question the most talented and feared warrior in the Allied effort in World War II. Patton had a natural knack for leading men into battle. Nazi Germany assumed he would lead the total war effort to defeat Hitler in Europe. Patton, with all his skill and achievement, was at the right place at the right time. However, Patton’s West Point schoolmate, Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower was appointed Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe. Patton was assigned a lesser post and commanded the 3rd Army Tank Group.

Eisenhower had immense organizational and planning skills to assemble the vast armada necessary to invade the French coast. Most importantly, Eisenhower had the diplomatic skills and ability to deal with difficult people and conflicting egos to overcome obstacles, reach consensus and lead a multi-national force in unison. Everyone “liked Ike”. Eisenhower was at the right place with the right group and had the right set of talents.

Patton saw himself as a reincarnation of Caesars and ancient heroes of battles. He was argumentative, uncooperative, driven and determined to have everything done his way. He believed he had the greatest vision to defeat the Germans and should be the Supreme Commander. His motivation was not only victory, but personal triumph that would lead to glorify Patton.

Patton not only didn’t lead the invasion, he was left cooling his heels and didn’t participate in leading anyone anywhere on D-Day. Eisenhower used Patton as a decoy to delay the Germans from reinforcing Normandy. The fake worked and allowed the invasion forces to gain a strong foothold to begin operations. Eisenhower’s motivation was to achieve the mission objective regardless of who gained glory or received credit. Eisenhower, not Patton, had the right motivation. Personal ambition has its place, but it is not the primary reason to grant a promotion.

Be Honest With Yourself

You can avoid regret if you honestly objectify yourself and assign your correct identity into your workplace circumstances. You need to evaluate the work situation correctly and not project your own hopes or aspirations into the group dynamic. Then the questions can be asked: “are you/were you at the right place, at the right time, with the right group and did you possess the right set of talents?

Then you must sort out motivation to properly evaluate your gain or loss of promotion. You have to examine your own motivations. You also must judge the motivations of higher management and other group members as you perceive them. This is difficult as the motives of others may prove to be elusive. All play a key factor whether you obtain the promotion or not.

We all have a better chance of getting to retirement without looking back with regret if we periodically step back and evaluate our current situation. We may see ourselves blocked into our jobs because the situation lacks one or more of the elements needed for promotion. If so, we need to decide whether we should seek opportunities elsewhere or satisfy ourselves that our present circumstances are acceptable. Either decision is rational, it is up to the individual to decide if it is desirable.

We’ll explore this a little further by looking at the career of automobile giant Lee Iacocca next time.

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.

 Personal Finance 

Making a Living? Or, Making a Life?

The following is a guest post by Gary Bonner. I email Gary after he left a poignant comment on my Devil’s Advocate post “Don’t Pay Your Dues,” and I asked that he elaborate on it – thankfully, he agreed. What follows is the first in what I hope is a well-received series of retrospective posts where Gary shares with us some hard earned lessons.

‘We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give”. – Sir Winston Churchill

It is so easy in today’s mad rush of activity and millions of information bytes speeding by demanding attention from our brains for us to lose sight of why we are chasing so hard. We are programmed by our schools and advertising to value certain things, demand certain expectations not only of ourselves, but of those around us; whether they be a life partner, a co-worker, employer, employee, parent, or sibling. Hollywood and Wall Street stream at us 24/7 with unrelenting goading to rise to the challenge of success and hitting it big. The lifestyles of the rich and famous are set before us. Will it happen to you?

Chances are they won’t. That is why the rich and famous stand out. There aren’t that many of them. If we step back and examine our lives can we see our inner motivations? Do we know why we do the things we do? What is our reference point? How do we define it?

There are really only 2 kinds of people in the world: those who work to live, and those who live to work. Let me explain.

Many people see their occupation as something they enjoy doing but it is not their preoccupation. They may have family responsibilities, hobbies, activity groups or goals that extend beyond the workplace. They may have wanted to achieve more material well being in their lives, or perhaps they already are achieving what they want. Either way, they have come to terms with whatever limitations or successes they achieve in life.

Other people are more focused on their profession or their goals. They have a thirst and a drive that motivates them to work hard and very long hours to meet their deadlines or standards. These individuals desire the progress, achievement, and/or recognition that their work develops. They may be creators, builders, healers, mission-oriented individuals who give their life to their end purpose. These people may be more incentive and material motivated. Or, they may be guided by a desire to persuade or to discover. They draw strength from and have come to terms with their focus in life.

Obviously, these are examples of both sides of an equation. We all seem to be playing on a teeter totter of “keeping things in balance” to meet the needs of our families and also our responsibilities to the working world. We want to work hard so we will have security when we are old. We want to have fun while we are young enough to physically and mentally enjoy life. But at the end, what do we really have?

I said in a posting to a Devil’s Advocate column on “Paying Your Dues” that “no one has ever laid on their death bed saying “I wish I had spent more time at the office”. We all have tasks to achieve each day. They can be as big as our capacity allows us, within our capability or tasks that stretch us to be bigger. At least half of our years are spent learning how far we can stretch and how willing we are to stretch. How far is based on on our abilities, how willing is based on our priorities. Sometimes we are not aware if ability to learn or willingness to learn is the driving force behind our actions.

Don’t buy into vague promises, winks and nods from employers that only bait you so they can see if you will take the hook. Make sure that the choices you make today are based on solid ground. Don’t “bet on the come” on a promise that doesn’t exist. If you work for an employer, think of yourself as a contract consultant providing goods and services to your customer. The only difference is that the employer withholds your taxes and provides benefits. If you are supplying value above expectations and the customer doesn’t give you more business (money or benefits), then find another customer.

The important achievements of life are what we accomplish with other people. Those that we love, those that we work and cooperate with, those we compete with, and those we learn to co-exist with. At the end of life there are only people, and our lives are extended in this world by other people’s memories of us. What you do today will form the memories of what you mean to others. Make each day count.

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.

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