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Karin’s Leadership Articles

Full Potential Leadership: Convincing Them to Bet on You

by | Sep 26, 2012 | By Karin Hurt, Career & Learning |

Are you truly building your full potential? The choices you make now, will impact what jobs are available down the road. Moving up too quickly in one functional area may limit the diversity of skills you learn, and turn you into a specialist with limited future potential.

As Joanne Cleaver, says “over is the new up.”

When a strong, smart employee comes to me looking for help being promoted, I almost always encourage them to also consider “jumping out of an airplane” and trying a lateral job they appear to know nothing about. I ask them to think more broadly about their full potential.

I ask these sorts of questions:

  • Are you building yourself into a specialist, or building a reputation as a leader with broader capacity?
  • Have you tried moving into a new discipline
  • What are your unrealized gifts?
  • Which of your skills are the most transferable?
  • Should you consider moving sideways to expand your perspective and skills?

And, I am truly grateful for the times in my career bosses and mentors challenged me in that same way and inspired me to work toward my full potential.

I’ve told my story of moves across HR, customer service, marketing, sales.. more than a few times. The truth is, I was able to take leaps across functions because other leaders have taken risks on me. My favorite line from a Sales Senior Vice President years ago, “Karin, don’t tell me you don’t know sales you’ve convinced us all to buy-in to these HR and leadership programs trust me, you can sell.”

So, I tell, my story, and people listen and then the natural question but, “how do I convince someone I am qualified?”

The truth is, I can’t break that down. I don’t exactly remember that part and I don’t have a great answer to this question and time and time again. I get stuck.

Time to Ask a Full Potential Expert

So, suppose you believe it’s important, and are prepared to take a risky move.

How do you convince someone to take a risk on you?

So I reached out to Joanne Cleaver, the author of The Career Lattice: how Lateral Move Strategies Can Grow Careers and Companies asked for some help.

They want to “lattice up”, but no one will give them a chance? What should they do?

Here’s her response:

The best way to make your case to a potential new boss is to show how you have already achieved results with a skill or responsibility analogous to the new challenge. For example, if you are trying to switch from a technology role in which you often interacted with marketing, to a marketing role that is a liaison to technology, show how you have managed a project from the point of view of marketing.

Build a concise case study that shows what you can do. (Simply saying, ‘I can do that!” isn’t enough.” )

Here’s how to build a case study:

•       Problem

•       Process

•       Solution

•       Results

•       One sentence each

Voila! You have shown yourself in action.

Use this case study formula to document your accomplishments as you go. You can use case studies in cover letters and interviews as you get to know potential new bosses.

Career lattices the emerging model for career paths because they are both flexible and sustainable. The skill of managing your career laterally is essential for working Americans of all ages and at all career stages, as I illustrate in The Career Lattice. By continually evolving your skills, abilities and peer network, you’ll qualify for tomorrow’s jobs today.

Great advice.

Have you convinced someone to take a risk on you?

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today?


  1. rdkemper

    Great points, Karin! To me it seems like another one of those examples where the rules are different for top management; my experience is that prospective CEOs or Business Unit Presidents get a “rotation” through HR, Finance, Marketing or whatever they haven’t done in order to prepare them for competing for or taking the top job. Yet precious little of that is done at the lower layers, preparing managers for senior management roles that may not yet be “top management.”

    That said, people are hungry for integrity, credibility and “the real deal.” Getting experience and building connections in different lateral functional positions sets the stage for a leadership position that is earned, respected and ultimately, followed. Your exhortation to “groom ourselves for leadership” is an empowering way for us to live into our own full potential.

    Thanks for your thought leadership on this topic.



  2. letsgrowleaders

    Thanks so much, David. That is a really great point. I think you are spot on. So the question is, how can we help to facilitate that across the organization at the lower levels…giving people the opportunity earlier on. More to think about it. Thank you!

  3. Steve Borek

    I recently had a situation where I felt I was right for the project yet the other person wasn’t convinced. So, I simply took action and demonstrated what it would be like working together. After showing a small win, I asked them to bring me on board so we could build on the momentum and traction we already started.

    In regards to giving someone a project or task without having any background, I look at the person’s values. My mantra is hire for attitude and give them the experience. I do it all the time.

  4. Karin Hurt

    That’s a great story… I am a full believer in small convincing wins.


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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict, and hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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