Why MANY smart people think they deserve a better position at work?

Note: I am addressing this post to “You” only to enhance readability (based on the feedback I received) and I am not making any assumption about your particular situation.

It starts with your Boss or someone who is in a better position than you.

You watch what they do and you just can’t believe it.

Some decisions your Boss takes are very obvious.

Some decisions your Boss takes are something any employee could easily do.

Some other times, when your Boss speaks, it seems like he does not have a full handle on things.

Sometimes you wonder how your Boss reached where he or she reached. How could that be possible? You seem more intelligent and more capable in so many different ways. It does not make any sense. There is no logic here. It must be “luck” and that may be the answer for why it is the way it is.

You notice and observe your Boss or anybody else (higher up) to find clues about what it is that they “do” differently that will make them stand apart. After a few months you don’t find anything that jumps out. Now things have changed. Not only do you think these people do not deserve the place where they are but also YOU deserve to be in a much better place. After all, you have more talent, more insights and you are more competent than what those people have demonstrated. There is definitely an injustice and you are on the short-end of the stick here. Not fair.

At least that’s what you think.

Agreed. In some cases, there are Bosses who are jerks and not to forget, there are employees who are jerks too. The “employee jerks” may not get the same attention as “Boss jerks” only because Boss jerks have more power than “Employee jerks”.

In most cases though, the following explains the situation better

You watch your Boss in action and you make a quick assessment of that action, it’s value, it’s purpose and the general design of that action. That is what you can see. However, underlying that action is the process of arriving at that action (which is mostly invisible)

Just before taking that action, a series of steps have to take place – sometimes these steps are taken quickly and sometimes a single step may take weeks or months to conclude. You watching from outside may never know what really went inside before an external action occurs.

1. Network:

This will have a huge influence on the “background thinking” of the leader. The quality of the Network and the quality of conversations with the network over the years will determine the “quality of the awareness” and that will influence the quality of the decisions made.

2. Input:

While the network can provide a big chunk of the input, the other sources include but not limited to – books, past history, experiences and most important – the quality of the observation and listening of what is available to observe and listen.

3. Elimination:

The ability to select the signal from the noise. The more unnecessary stuff (noise) one can remove, the more necessary stuff (signal) remains to be processed.

4. Processing or Assembly:

This is like playing a game of Legos. You have a number of pieces and you can build a number of things. Whoever can determine the wide variety of possibilities quickly will have a huge competitive advantage.

5. Synthesis:

This involves coming up with the right combination of available pieces and customizing it to fit the current situation.

6. Decision:

Completing the synthesis will result in the “lightbulb” moment which appears as a decision to the external world.

What you can see is the decision or the final output of everything. It seems like you can repeat the decision and you may very well be capable of doing that. However, it’s hard for you to replicate how the decision was arrived without the kind of “experience” that is required.

To summarize it in one sentence: Rather than trying to copy decisions, try to “become” that person who can produce those high-quality decisions. Once you are ready, a better position will automatically come up sooner than later.