People often say “don’t fix what isn’t broken.” Said another way, keep doing what has worked before. The problem with this mentality is that what worked in one context may no longer work in the next. People often fail to update their assumptions and change their actions which is why I think many people’s careers stall and they don’t even realize it.
For people transitioning from individual contributor roles to more manager/partner levels, I often give this career advice:
"Most people assume just doing their current assigned job well is enough – so many associates at law firms think doing all the paperwork and litigation properly is the road to partnership, and many PR account executives think that getting a few articles written about their clients will earn them a promotion, but becoming a principal, partner, or senior executive with P&L-level responsibility requires a completely separate set of skills from entry and mid-level jobs."
A venture capitalist, whom I respect, has written about “crossing the people management chasm.” He contends that even after getting to the manager level, that there are multiple levels of manager roles that you can’t just re-use previous skills you’ve accumulated. \
First, you are a team lead who manages a handful of people with 50% of your time and still continue as an individual contributors for 50% of the time. Then you become managers of team leads who really are team builders and don’t do any individual contribution to a team’s effort. Last, you become a manager of managers who need to identify, hire, and evaluate managers whose contributions aren’t easily identifiable in the form of deliverables or individual work.
As managers move up these tiers, they often find that their previously finely honed skill set just doesn’t work for succeeding in the new role. The key is to understand this reality and assume you have to always be learning. Otherwise, you’ll stay stuck by doing the same old things but in a new position. This fact underpins PaperG’s culture and hiring requirements of finding people who are always learning and investing in their skill sets.
Promotion at PaperG on a managerial level is based on whether you’ve shown the abilities to do the next tier’s work rather than simply promoting you based on having done really well on your existing tier (this isn’t to say you can’t get salary raises for staying in your tier and just keep doing that well and better over time). We’ll do trials where you might get some managerial responsibilities on the next level and set expectations on what it takes to get the actual promotion. Otherwise, you end up promoting the managers who are absolutely terrible at their new jobs and can’t get promoted further but then keep their whole team down by being terrible in their current role.
Ultimately, I believe if you ever find yourself stuck in your career, you have to ask yourself if it is because what you used to do is no longer enough in your new role. What got you here isn’t going to be what will get you there.