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Published:March 11th, 2010 17:35 EST

Spend Less Time on Ascension and More Time on Connection!

By Simon Bailey (Mentor/Columnist)

Simon Says...Connect-the-Dots

Congratulations and here`s a virtual fist bump to Kathryn Bigelow ( for becoming the first woman to win an Oscar for directing. She didn`t just win because she was a woman- that was a bonus. She won because of sheer brilliance in directing a spectacular movie. The Hollywood glass ceiling was finally shattered thanks to 18 million cracks. ( According to Sharon Waxman, reporter for The Wrap, "only three other women have ever been nominated for this category and it took longer to break the gender barrier in Hollywood than it took to break the color barrier."
This incredible achievement reminded me of a lunch meeting that I had with Rachel Landrum, Executive Vice President of Metavante Corporation (  Rachel and I met at a sales conference where I was speaking, and we quickly discovered that we both lived in Florida. Eager to find out what made Rachel such a successful executive, I invited her to lunch.
After getting to know one another, I carefully positioned my burning question: What are the five things people can do to successfully ascend the corporate ladder? Without missing a beat, she said, "Simon, there is no ladder."
As you might imagine, I sat there stunned. This brilliant woman had just said what I`d often thought, but never had the guts to say. Rachel went on to explain that people confuse the corporate ladder, as we know it, with their goals. They set a goal to achieve a certain position or level in the organization, and then start posturing, jumping through hoops and jockeying for position. This fuels a highly political, internally competitive (vs. cooperative and collaborative) environment that impacts organizational trust.
Instead of pursuing the fallacy of the corporate ladder, Rachel suggested six ways to be a successful leader in business and life:  

Connect the Dots

Connect the dots between your role, your team`s role, other departments and divisions. Resist the urge to operate in a silo.   

Always be accountable to yourself. If you don`t, you will become lazy. 

Constantly evaluate your internal compass in order to stay grounded and to ensure that your motives are pure. Pay attention to your`s your edge. 

Connect with people. See them as human beings instead of judging them based on societal beliefs. Celebrate others for who they are right now and for who they are becoming, instead of worrying about their past failures.  

Be willing to fail. Dust yourself off and get back in the game.
Rachel then moved to the topic of women in Corporate America: "Some of the issues that women face are self-inflicted. For whatever reason, they bury their brilliance by creating artificial boundaries that confine them to a limited way of thinking and believing. Some women (and some men, too) think that if they can`t make a big splash and see their name in corporate lights, then they`re not going to do anything at all. But people shouldn`t give up their power to artificial barriers. All people - regardless of gender, race, etc. - are powerful and can do whatever they decide to do if they will be accountable to themselves."
Toward the end of our lunch, I asked, "Rachel, why do you think you`re so successful?" She simply responded, "Because I realize it is not about arriving. There is no end goal, no final destination. I understand how to BE."
Since our lunch together, I haven`t been able to get something Rachel said out of my they connect the dots? It`s clear to me that she is brilliantly on target. The essence of success for any individual in the global economy is to understand that his or her role in business and in life is to connect the dots.
If you work in retail, you have the solution to someone`s problem (a product or service). If you work in healthcare, your focus is to ensure that patients have the best environment in which to recover to full health. If you work in technology, your goal is to identify how your company`s hardware or software can resolve customers` needs. If you work in telecommunications, your emphasis is helping customers leverage the Internet, landline telephone, cell phone, PDA and fax in order to connect with the outside world.
You...that`s right, you...are the solution to someone`s issue, problem, or challenge. You can drive value, make a difference, and take your team, department or company to the next level. You just have to connect the dots!
We spend so much time climbing the invisible ladder, only to discover that its rungs don`t reach the top like we thought.  Instead of trying to move vertically from bottom to top, how can you move horizontally, from A to Z? How can you build relationships with people? How can you solve their problems and make their businesses and lives better? How do you become a MVP (Most Valuable Person)?  Simon Says...Connect-the-Dots.
When you connect with others authentically - not for what you can get from them, but for what you can give to them - it makes for fulfilling, gratifying and satisfying work and life. Maybe one day you will hold an Oscar in your hand for directing a film that you saw as a challenging opportunity instead of guaranteed notoriety.
Simon Says... Spend less time on ascension and more time on connection!
Send me an e-mail at and tell me how you plan to connect-the-dots in life or business.