It’s spring and with it comes nice weather, baseball and much happiness for those of us not fond of winter. Those of us in the Navy also recognize it as the season of promotion board results. Last week, many good friends received news, both positive and other, about their promotion to Captain status. I was not up for promotion this year but shared conversations of gratitude and condolence inspired me to write a letter to “Sean of 2012” (when I expect to be hearing the news about my upward mobility)…

“Sean of 2012” – I hope you are receiving the news regarding your promotion status with humility, acceptance and gratitude. No matter the result, take a few minutes to reflect upon the journey that has led you to this point, as the journey is for what you should remain grateful. You have always prided yourself on finding the jobs that forced you to grow in meaningful ways, about which you had great passion and that added value to the lives of those around you.

A promotion does not validate your efforts. Validation comes from the person you have become and the people whom you have helped along the way. You are no better or worse than any of your peers who were also considered; because, as you well know, the result is more about who was on the promotion board, what senior officers chose to creatively write about you on your fitness reports and how people perceived you over the years. Whatever the result, be happy about it. I say this with some ambivalence as I can visualize a scenario where not being promoted might make you happy. If you are pleased, congratulations. If not, get over it! Every year many great people are not promoted and, often times, a few knuckleheads sneak through. You have never aspired to rank, but to adding value, as it is all that truly matters. Regardless of the collar device you are authorized to wear, continue to contribute at a level well beyond that. As you have often stated, collar device and competence never have been directly related. Now get on the phone and call each and every member of your peer group, starting with those who were not listed on the promotion message.

Making Time,
“Sean of 2010”

  • How do you define professional success?
  • Are you overly focused on upward mobility?
  • How do you communicate with teammates who don’t find their names on the promotion list?