Different Devils

Originally published August 17, 2022

I recently had a chance to be a part of the studio audience for a podcast interview with Stephanie Chung, Chief Growth Officer for Wheels Up, and former President of JetSuite. One of the questions the interviewer asked was something along the lines of, “Now that you have broken through so many barriers as a woman, and woman of color, to reach the highest levels in your organizations, has it gotten easier?” Her response struck a chord. She looked the interviewer right in the eye and simply responded, “different level, different devil.”

It is so easy to lure ourselves into to thinking, “when (so and so) happens, this will get easier.” When I get the next promotion . . . when the kids get back in school . . . when I finish this project . . . This kind of passive, victim thinking will only lead to frustration on everyone’s part. Maybe it is not supposed to get easier. Maybe we are supposed to get better. At prioritizing, at  being selective in what we commit to, and learning to say no to someone else’s worthy project so we can say yes to our own.

Different levels also require a different lens. As you “move up” in an organization, you will likely be moving from near-term project-specific tasks to long-term strategic initiatives . . . different devil indeed. No longer able to check most items off your do-do list as completed, the strategic approach means days where you have no idea if you actually made progress or not (and you know what the devil will be whispering in your ear). It is dealing with a myriad of opinions, and laying ground work that may take months or even years to come to fruition. It is encountering “pull your hair out” frustration and set-backs that few if anyone is even aware of, and yet that command large portions of your time.

With the right attitude, however, you can call the devil’s bluff. Because each successive level gives you the opportunity to expand your impact, to shape the future of your organization in ways that would not have been possible if you hadn’t chosen to look the devil in the eye and say, “step aside, I’ve got this.” As you move from one level in your organization to the next, things will not get easier. You just get better. You learn new skills, grow a thicker skin, and develop the relationships and connections that can help you, and your organization thrive.

Different level, different devil? You bet. So stare that devil in the eye and keep moving. You’ve got big things to accomplish.

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