Ask the Leadership Coach: Handling a promotion and finding your purpose

Got questions about your leadership or management style? Send them to Leadership Coach John M. McKee. In this post, he offers advice to someone handling a promotion from within her team and a manager disappointed with his current job and looking for a better fit.

Recently promoted and ready to make some changes

I was recently promoted and now oversee the team that I've been a part of for 3 years. I'm glad to have the opportunity and want to make some changes of responsibility to increase our overall results. Additionally I know this isn't going to sit well with a couple of individuals who will feel that they've lost some of their power (which is true). I want these changes to be as well received as possible and don't want to create a bunch of negativity which might have the opposite effect. Suggestions?

- Cheryl in Sarasota, CA

This kind of problem is my favorite, because it's all about human beings, and it can be resolved quickly, unlike a profit shortfall or major technical failure, both of which would usually require a lot of money, time, and committee meetings.

There are many books on the topic of leadership, but they go in and out of fashion with the frequency of teen girls' clothing trends. I rarely come across one with real "nuts and bolts" tips to help someone move smoothly into a new job, but I think Kenneth Blanchard's Leadership and the One Minute Manager holds up well even 10 years after it was written. It may provide you with some inspiration.

In most management situations, a lot of the hassles can be avoided if the boss would just take some time to treat team members with a little dignity and empathy. Unfortunately, most bosses are not that mentally honest. They avoid having the "tough discussions" hoping that people will get over it. But, that just makes things worse.

I suggest that you deal with this potential issue head-on: That means laying the groundwork and doing some pro-active damage control before making the general announcement. Schedule a time to talk one-on-one with those who are going to lose some of their scope. Let them understand that it's non negotiable, but that you still value them and want their suggestions about how they could make the best contributions going forward. You might be surprised with their suggestions; some may even be really good.

Importantly, by talking to them beforehand, you show that you've got leadership skills and aren't afraid to face challenging issues. Others will hear about what you did, and it will reinforce your new role. You'll feel good about how you dealt with it, which will make you stronger. It's a circle-of-success thing.

Congratulations on the promotion Cheryl. And now, as you've realized, it's time to show why you deserve this new leadership role.

Purpose makes work easy

John, I recently saw you on a television show. You were talking about how important it is to have a job that is aligned with your "Purpose". You said that when someone is doing something they enjoy, a job won't even seem like work; and that the people who are the most satisfied people are usually doing something they love.

This made total sense to me. I experience it myself when I'm at home building things for the house. It's like I can go all day long and don't even remember to eat because I'm into the zone. But at work - not so much. The manager of a large group, I've now realized that I'm not in the right job. I'm doing work that I don't care about, or even like. My question is, how do I figure out what kind of a job I should be doing; and how do I look for another job when I'm working here taking trouble calls all day?

- Bob H from Houston

Well Bob, the good news is that you seem to have already figured out what kind of a job you should be doing. It probably has to do with home improvements and not dealing with technical problems. I'd suggest you give serious consideration to creating an escape plan while at the same time developing some relationships for a successful new role as a business owner.

For those who don't have a clue about their purpose, it's going to take some thought and noodling to figure it out. There are many books available from various sources (A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle is one that I like) to help you. Online you can find programs that will walk you through the steps (the one on my site works well). Think of this like having a "business plan" for your life. You wouldn't run a department or organization without a plan that was revisited each year for adjustments and change. Treat your life the same way.

Dog Days of Summer Reading: One of the better books on the subject that I've come across is this book by Roy M. Spence, which nicely ties together the importance of a company's purpose with its results. Using real life examples with well-known organizations, he makes the point that vision statements like "our people make the difference" are usually a waste of time, and he provides a better recipe for success. Check it out.

Do you have a leadership question for John?

If you have a leadership question or need some advice on a leadership topic, email John at with "Leadership Coach" as your subject line.

By John McKee

John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...