Leadership / Parenting / Ambition / Promotion

Leadership Moment — 1 Apr 22

Make them say no.

Mark McMillion
3 min readApr 1, 2022


Photo from Microsoft Office 365

My oldest daughter has flown the nest and is working in her first job. They’re creating a new position which is probably just beyond her reach and besides, there’s another woman in the lab who probably deserves it more.

I listened carefully (not my strongest suit) as she described the situation, why it’s probably too soon for her to apply, she’s probably not as qualified, the other woman probably deserves it more, and so on. All those probablies aren’t by accident.

That’s the kind of language we use to talk ourselves out of things. After my daughter finished describing the situation, she asked if I had an opinion on it. “Honey, your Dad always has an opinion.” She laughed and said she’d like to hear what I think. “That’s different! Of course, here’s what I think.”

I made two points. First, too many times we tell ourselves “no” instead of making the other people do it. Applying for a promotion is not an unreasonable ask and there should be no harm in applying and not getting it so long as she understands that may happen. Men routinely apply for jobs they don’t completely qualify for while women sometimes hold back. She laughed and said, “I know. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. I learned that from Bugs Bunny, I think.” Or her Dad quoting Michael Jordan but that’s not important. Maybe it was in Space Jam, I don’t know.

I’ve done this to myself when making sales calls. I’ll catch myself and then go ahead and make that one last call. Successful or not, I’m always glad I did. It’s just too easy to say no for other people.

If you want something and it’s a reasonable ask, then go for it.

The second piece of advice I shared is this: promotions aren’t always based on performance. In fact, and the Army makes a big deal about this, they should be based on potential. Just because a guy is the best carpenter on the crew doesn’t mean he should be made foreman. Technical skill matters, but when you’re talking about leadership positions, other things can matter more. We talked about this and how this promotion is a required step towards a supervisory position.

So how do you show potential? You do more. You do things outside your basic job description and fall more within the next level up. Performance can show potential and it absolutely matters but it isn’t the only way to show you’re ready for more responsibility.

That was my leadership moment today.

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Mark McMillion

Retired Army officer with two tours in Baghdad, married with four kids. Proud West Virginian and West Point grad. Works available on Amazon.