If you think your company keeps you from advancing appropriately, you’re not alone. But even if your organization’s leadership isn’t clear or doesn’t play fair, the responsibility for rising is yours.
For example, at a particular company many managers often complained about the reasons their company hadn’t encouraged their promotion to leadership positions.
But all their explanations revolved around their fear and hesitancy. They blamed eternal circumstances, they were waiting for someone else to make their paths simple and easy, and they took no individual responsibility.
One of the managers, Dave, had an epiphany: He was the problem. His boss had said the same thing during their mentoring sessions. His boss had said that Dave had passed the first test – he was competent and the boss could trust his numbers.
Next, his boss wanted to know if Dave had enough ambition and courage to take the initiative for his next steps; to speak up professionally at meetings, to risk being corrected and to learn in public.
There was no clear and specific list of stepping-stones for promotion, like there was when Dave was learning technical skills and was told exactly what would be on each test and how the test would be given.
This was the real world. Tests were frequent and came without warning. People didn’t play fair and there were winners and losers.
Also, Dave would have to deal with the way things are, not how he wants them to be. For example, if Dave had hurt feelings in a hostile interaction with his boss, Dave would have to rebuild the bridge between them. His boss wouldn’t approach him to make Dave feel better.
His boss could help him, but the ultimate responsibility for success would lie with Dave. Was he willing to struggle and learn to play the game?
The fact is that path to advancement is never risk-free. You will get your wrists slapped in public. But if you never take those risks, you won’t advance.
What happened to Dave? You may be expecting me to say that Dave’s real name is Sam Walton or Bill Gates.
No, Dave is simply Dave. But he succeeded in his first steps. He’s ambitious: he got help and took the responsibility and risk, and he has been promoted.
Often, people need coaching to help them overcome their hesitancy and self-bullying, and to build the strength, courage, determination and skill needed to take the right risks in a way that increases their chances of success. To get the help you need, call Ben at 1-877-828-5543.
Amy Chua’s article in the Wall Street Journal, “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior,” has gotten enough publicity to make her book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” a best seller. She’s clear that she uses the term “Chinese Mother” to represent a certain way of treating children that may be found in people from many, many cultures.
If many people adopt her style of parenting in order to make their children play at Carnegie Hall that would be a shame. Amy Chua is an abusive bully.
She beats her children into submission and claims that they’ll have great self-esteem as well as becoming successful in the competitive jungle of life because they can accomplish the very few things Ms. Chua thinks are important.
“What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you're good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences.”
“Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight “As.” Western parents can only ask their kids to try their best.”
“Western parents are extremely anxious about their children's self-esteem…Western parents are concerned about their children's psyches. Chinese parents aren't. They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently.”
“Chinese parents demand perfect grades because they believe that their child can get them. If their child doesn't get them, the Chinese parent assumes it's because the child didn't work hard enough. That's why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child.”
There’s a grain of sense in what she says, but that grain is covered by a mountain of brutality that will be successful in creating only slaves or another generation of bullying parents, not in creating fully human beings.
What’s wrong with Ms. Chua’s ideas?
She lives in a kill-or-be-killed world of desperate striving for the most material rewards of success.
She’s rigid, narrow, and all-or-none with only two possibilities.
She allows only a few criteria for success – Stanford or Yale, violin or piano, maybe ballet. I assume only one or two acceptable careers like lawyer or professor.
She assumes that there are only totally slacking children (Americans) or totally successful children (with “Chinese Mothers”). If you give children an inch, they’ll become complete failures.
She thinks that the only way her children can be successful and happy and honor their parents is to be champions at her approved activities.
There’s almost no joy in their lives. Yes, there’s a moment when her daughter masters a difficult two-handed exercise. But the best that the rest of life holds is the thrill of victory and success at winning. There’s no possibility for joy in doing activities that thrill your soul and uplift your spirit.
Ms. Chua has only one value – compete and defeat; win at any cost.
This is a great and necessary value. It has made our society the first world. But if when the only value, when she ignores all the other equally great and necessary values she becomes inhuman – a barbarian, a torturer, no better than a Nazi or Communist or Fascist.
No wonder she’s aghast at all the personal attacks. She may be a brilliant law professor and accomplished writer but she’s completely out of touch with the world’s great traditions championing other values like great character, individuality, liberty, self-determination, love, beauty, compassion, spirituality and human connection. That’s why people take it so personally. Ms. Chua is attacking our most cherished values; cherished for good reasons. These values make us human in our most fundamental American, western ways.
Ms. Chua represents inhumanity justified by Darwin and Marx. She represents a revival of B.F. Skinner’s way of raising his daughter in a “Skinner Box,” as if she was a pigeon. When she grew up she sued him.
A better approach:
Have you observed your children individually and carefully? One approach does not fit them all.
Which children need you to provide more structure and which will be dedicated and determined on their own? Which children respond better when they’re encouraged and which respond better to having their imperfections pointed out? This is where expert coaching is helpful to design approaches that fit you and each child.
What are your children passionate about so they become energetic and determined on their own? Are following an artists path, playing the oboe, writing “silly” stories like “The Little Prince,” learning to program computers, studying bugs and strange sea creatures, mastering any sport, being a person who inspires others to be the best they can be, dedicating yourself to raising independent and creative children living rich and full lives, being a craftsman who makes great pianos or violins, coaching basketball teams at “minor schools” like University of Connecticut or UCLA to set winning-record streaks, being entrepreneurs like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, making movies, loving children and a thousand other endeavors worthwhile to you? How can you encourage and nurture your child’s dedication and skill in those areas?
Character is critical. All of the world’s great literature points to the deficiencies of social climbers, bureaucrats and people whose only focus is to win at all costs. What would Ms. Chua have created if she could have gotten her hands on the children who became, for example, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles Dickens or Alexander Solzhenitsyn? Or great figures in the world from Joan of Arc, Hildegard of Bingen and Mahatma Gandhi to Martin Luther King Jr. or Aung San Suu Kyi, to name only five of thousands.
Don’t be a victim of your parents’ ideas about what constitutes success and how to achieve it. You can give your children the tools of the mind, will and spirit and let them create their own lives that they’ll love.
By the way, Ayalet Waldman wrote a somewhat tongue-in-cheek response in the Wall Street Journal, “In Defense of the Guilty, Ambivalent, Preoccupied Western Mom.” In part she defends her children’s choices and her catering to those choices. In part she also defends her selfish desires to discourage her children when their activities would inconvenience her. That’s not the answer either.
All of the poles in this discussion are the wrong places to be – being a wimpy parent or an uncaring, selfish parent or a brute.
George Will reported in his Newsweek column, “More Stimulating that the Stimulus,” that “In Ottawa, the sensitivity police in a children’s soccer league announced that any team attaining a five-goal lead would be declared to have lost, thereby sparing the feelings of those who were, if you will pardon the expression, losing.”
This was confirmed by many other articles including, “Win a soccer game by more than five pints and you lose, Ottawa league says.” Although the title says enough, here are some quotes from the article, “In yet another nod to the protection of fledgling self-esteem, an Ottawa children’s soccer league has introduced a rule that says any team that wins a game by more than five points will lose by default… Club director Sean Cale… said the league’s 12-person board of directors is not trying to take the fun out of the game, they are simply trying to make it fair. The new rule, suggested by ‘involved parents,’ is a temporary measure that will be replaced by a pre-season skill assessment to make fair teams.”
The Club fields teams between the ages of 4 and 17.
It’s hard to keep calm when we hear this kind of idiocy. I suppose next they’ll want the Ottawa Senators to stop shooting if the ever get a two goal lead.
The bullies here are not good soccer players who score many goals, although they might be if they go overboard into vicious fouling and nasty taunting against overmatched opponents. The bullies here are the members of the Club Board who act like self-appointed “Self-Esteem Police.”
The rules of soccer, when followed, already make the game fair.
Professional Victims assume that their children’s psyches and self-esteem are weak and fragile
The slightest problem will damage them forever. As if kids can’t maintain their self-esteem when they’re beaten badly by a better team.
I assume, on the contrary, that children begin strong and have to be taught to see themselves as weak and fragile
Children are not damaged by failing or learning their present location in the hierarchy of inborn gifts and hard work. I assume that when children fail it’s because they haven’t worked hard enough. The solution to not succeeding is to work harder to fulfill your potential. Children survive intense pressure, challenge and struggle. When they improve, their self-confidence and sense of competence increases.
Also, we all have much more choice about how we feel
You have to be taught to have low self-esteem after you lose at something you know you’re not very good at. You have to be taught to have stress, anxiety and depression after you lose. You have to be taught to wallow in negative self-talk and self-bullying. You have to be taught to give up.
People who succeed in life respond by directing their energy into a vow to do better and a determination to work harder, get better and win at life
We’ve all been beaten down at times. We’ve all found out where we stand in the hierarchy of who’s faster, stronger, smarter, prettier. And our position in that hierarchy has nothing to do with happiness or self-esteem. Ask any great athlete how they motivate themselves after having been beaten. Ask any great mother or father how they motivate themselves to do better after they’re done something really dumb in their family.
The general rule is never to give the Self-Esteem Police or the Professional Victims credence or power. Treat them as bullies and learn to stop them. Tell them to suck it up; stop creating and wallowing in hurt feelings. The lesson for these kids is to have more inner strength, courage and perseverance and to get more skillful so you can succeed in the real-world.
We need to learn how to win. Winning is critical for our survival as individuals and societies.
The general rule in winning big is to not be a jerk about it. Grownups are supposed to learn not to thrash their kids when they’re young, The big kids in any extended family are supposed to learn how to make it fun for the little kids to play ball with them. We’re supposed to learn how to be gracious winners when someone isn’t in our league in any game.
The general rule in dealing with defeat is to gather yourself, get more skillful and do better next time. And if you’re not good enough to be a champion, decide to be happy enjoying playing at any game in life, whether it’s sport, dance, music, art or any other area of endeavor where there are only a few “work class” players.
By the way, so much scorn was heaped on the Ottawa soccer club that they did get rid of that rule. They now have a new mercy rule “under which a game will be called once one team has a lead of eight goals. Whichever team is ahead at that time will be credited with the win,”