Step Up To Climb Every Ladder

Forgiveness and blame awaits on every rung

The problem with ambition at work is that there are always shoes on the rung above the one you are balancing on. Well, maybe not always. Take my first corporate ladder as an example.

My first formal job after my first formal degree came with a formal title and a formal office. But on my first formal day, my first formal boss resigned. The man who picked me as being worthy, who promised me riches in exchange for my productive loyalty, walked out the day I walked in.

Unlike most corporate ladders, the one I stood on had only two rungs. And the rung above me was suddenly empty.

That rung was the next one up, yes, but in terms of context and experience, it was a rung too far on a ladder too short. At least for me.

Six servings of impact on the corporate ladder

You’ll have great impact if you serve honestly. (John Leech Sketch Archives 1841-1864)

Here’s a simple way to check whether you are near the top or the bottom of the corporate ladder. Ask six honest serving-men.

That’s right, the ones Rudyard Kipling called What, Why, When, How, Where and Who.

  • If you tend to think in terms of What and When, then you are near the bottom of the hierarchy, because you are focusing on tasks and actions.
  • If you are more inclined to think in terms of Why and Who, then you are nearer the top, because you are focusing on purpose and people.

What about How?

  • At lower levels How helps you ensure that tasks are performed well.
  • At higher levels, How helps you ensure that people perform well.

And what about honest serving-man Where?

Well, if you serve honestly, then your impact on people or tasks will not be determined by where you are on the corporate ladder.

Promote your time frame to be promoted

The further you see, the farther you’ll go. (John Leech Sketch Archives 1841-1864)

What is your time frame in your current job? You don’t know? Well then, maybe that’s why you are stuck on that rung with no promotion in sight.

The reason the organization structure is a pyramid is so that those up high can see more and see further. Well, the reverse also applies. The further into the future you can think and operating, the higher up you will be promoted.

This was uncovered by Dr. Elliott Jaques, way back in the 1950s. His research showed that manager-types tend to be capable of managing effectively over a one-year period. Senior managers can handle two-year time frames comfortably, general managers five years and vice presidents up to ten years.

And CEOs? Well, they should be able to think and strategize in terms of ten to twenty years. Oh, hang on. I think I see why so many organizations struggle with short-term turmoil.

Today is the start of your new honeymoon

Forgiveness with blame to follow is the honeymoon way. (free public domain:

Is there really a 90-day rule? According to this rule, the success you enjoy today is not the result of what you do today, but of what you did 90 days ago. So, if, like me, you did very little 90 days ago, then you will enjoy very little success today.

Yes, the 90-day period is the same time frame as the three-month honeymoon period. During this honeymoon, a newly appointed person, such as a CEO, is allowed some leeway to find her feet. Minor mistakes are readily forgiven.

I don’t care whether the 90-day rule exists, or whether it should be thirty days or three. Nor do I care about the length of your honeymoon. What matters is when forgiveness and blame trade places.

Forgiveness is the passion during the honeymoon, and blame is abundant after 90-days. But guess what. Another 90-day honeymoon starts every morning.

Welcome to my side of the nonsense divide.