When I started my first company many years ago, I met with a local bank to explore a business loan. I had no idea what I was doing and could have easily been dismissed by the mid-level banker I visited. But instead of a cold rejection, Jennifer was warm and gracious. She extolled the benefits of her bank as if they were her own and took the time to forge a solid relationship, even though there was no way I'd qualify for a loan at that time. I left the meeting liking the bank, but loving this up-and-comer. She didn't behave like someone at her level at all; more like the CEO.
Her professionalism and passion stuck with me, and I often reflected back on how she performed so much higher than her business card title would dictate. A few years later, I wasn’t the least bit surprised when I read a newspaper story covering her promotion to Chief Executive. She'd been playing above her level the whole time, and then it became her destiny.
Too often, we wait for that promotion, recognition, or authority to start acting the part. But the fastest way to get there is to start playing up far in advance of the accolades.
In boxing, it's called 'punching above your weight class.' The central idea is that performing at a level higher than your current role is your fast-pass to greatness. If you want your boss’ job, start taking on the responsibility he or she has far ahead of any promotion. Inject the care and intensity in your work today that you'd promise to give if you reached the next level. If you want to be a leader, start acting like one.
If you hope to be a best-selling author, do the things such a person would do. If you want to be the highest priced tax litigation expert, don't wait for your fee to increase to perform at your greatest level. If your goal is to lead your community, don't wait for a political appointment to start making a difference.
We often wait for some outside title or recognition to perform at our best, but ironically the fastest way to earn up is to play up. If you're constantly performing one level above your pay grade, you'll quickly find yourself racing through the milestones of achievement.
Ten years after my first meeting with Jennifer, she grew from running her regional bank to becoming its Chairwoman and then she took on a much larger CEO role in a top-tier national bank. Because she played up long before she was recognized, she leapfrogged her competitors on the road to success. You can do the same.
Connect with the ultimate vision of what you want, and start playing the part today. Amp up your intensity and performance, and the rewards you seek will quickly become yours.