Is Your ‘But’ Too Big?

Why that word may be standing between you and success--and how to overcome it.

  • By Sandy M. Fernández
  • June 18, 2013

If you got passed over in that last round of promotions,  say veteran managers Joe and Bob Azelby, you can probably blame your 'but.' That’s the little word in the middle of the sentence when people describe you at the office, as in: "Jane is a great saleswoman, but she gets so stressed out." Or: "Beth has amazing vision, but she can’t keep track of details."

"Everybody has a 'but.' The key is to know what yours is and work on making it smaller," says Bob, who's spent decades managing hundreds of people at California biotech giant Amgen. (Joe currently manages a team of more than 400 as CEO of JP Morgan Asset Management's Global Real Asset Group.) Their new book, "Kiss Your 'But' Good-Bye: How to Get Beyond the One Word that Stands Between You and Success," is an admittedly punny (yet no-nonsense) guide to doing just that. Bob gave us a preview.

DailyWorth: Why write this book? 

Bob Azelby: My brother and I have more than 40 years of collective experience in progressively larger management roles for two very large Fortune 500 companies. We noticed that a lot of corporate HR programs focus on playing to your strength. But when we’re in a room talking about whether someone can move up, that’s not what’s discussed. The conversation quickly goes to what the person struggles with, why they can’t get to the next level. Yet we rarely have candid conversations about these things. We thought, ‘If we can get people talking about what’s really holding them back, we can really help.’

So if you're not getting promoted, it's your own fault? That's tough stuff. 

Both my brother and I see a lot of folks blaming other things for why their careers aren’t progressing. They blame management, nepotism, they get mad at the organization. That may make you feel good, but it's really your performance relative to your peers that's holding you back. And the only way to move your career forward is to [work on] your shortcomings.

What's the biggest problem people have confronting their 'buts'? 

Just acknowledging how big their 'but' is and how it's really impacting other people that they work with. Most people walk around thinking, 'Hey, no one's telling me about it; therefore, I must be doing well.'

Keep reading for more on how to overcome your 'but.'

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Tagged in: Career Advice