The Lateral Advantage

Image courtesy of Flickr/Antony_Mayfield

Early in my career, I never contemplated going anywhere but up. I imagine most working professionals have held a similar mindset at some point in their careers.

In hindsight, I absolutely wouldn’t be where I am today without a wise mentor uttering these magic words: “How ’bout making a lateral move?”

I recall glaring at him like he had six eyeballs. Today, I look back with a tremendous sense of gratitude to a leader who saw my potential and took an interest in shaping my future. After years in sales and business development, I stepped into operations and excelled.

Moving others to new heights by expressing genuine interest in their success and helping them realize their potential to develop untapped talents can be daunting. Acknowledge one’s potential by painting a picture of the course he or she can chart with diverse experience. You’ll experience greater ease instilling confidence to perform outside of a well-defined comfort zone.

“You won’t enjoy it” were my mentor’s unsettling words. Without a full conversation, I may never have pursued multiline profit-and-loss responsibility, led an organizational redesign or directed continuous improvement. 

The next time you face a passionate colleague set on their every move being a stellar promotion, underscore the importance of developing a career plan that builds in a little enlightenment over the broader journey. 

Smart people learn new skills quickly. Good management acumen crosses disciplines. Uncertainty is ever-present until you apply your intellect, people-building skills and managerial strengths in a new role. A solid career path should afford everyone that opportunity.

Without a leader’s personal interest, it wouldn’t have dawned on me to take a path that proved so essential today. The bottom line: Less lucrative moves in the short run can prove instrumental to success and the larger opportunity to influence the success of others along the way.