I have seen this expression in a few places, mostly talking about breaking through the glass ceiling.
The issue is that no two people will do it the same way, so it is challenging for leaders to develop their people in order for them to be promoted.
In other words, we all have our unique style, learning ability, motivation, etc. and it is compounded by those who influence us, such as parents, significant others, and friends.
Over time we also mature and our desires may change but we either may not realize it fully or are having trouble explaining it to others.
This is a conundrum with no easy answer.
The interesting thing is that some seem to have no desire to move up. They are perfectly content doing their job and receiving a paycheck.
You may think they are the easier ones to deal with until they announce they are leaving. “What? How could this have happened?”
The answer may be that they lacked confidence so they did not think they were worthy of moving up.
Another reason may be that they read an article, saw a TV show/documentary, or listened to the radio and they had an epiphany!
This is what happened to me.
When I was visiting my alma mater over 15 years ago, one of the professors asked me to speak to a senior class about interviewing and the job search.
As I was speaking, I realized that this was something I could do and I would get much more fulfillment out of teaching young people than making 100 calls a day recruiting (and it was more fun!).
Not long after, I moved to Rhode Island and I am now an Adjunct Professor at two universities and I am also a corporate trainer.
Of course there are others whose sole desire is to become an executive and maybe even the CEO.
These employees are very goal oriented and like challenges. Leaders need to continuously find ways to keep these people engaged otherwise they will get bored and may leave.
The issue as we all know is that some of our work is necessary but not very interesting.
The other thing I hear often is that although they do all the right things, they still can’t move up because there are no open positions.
This is an opportunity then for a leader to have this person “step in” on some tasks that the leader would normally do such as attend high level meetings, meet with key customers, create a strategic plan, etc. They may not do it like you but that is OK.
If you are a leader now, think about how you broke that glass ceiling.
Now realize the issues you faced, how you dealt with them, who helped you as a mentor/coach, and what you learned from all of this.
As much as you want to tell your employee all of it, let them first try different methods on their own.
The reason I say this is that they are not a mini-you, so it is important for them to learn on their own, make mistakes, and develop their own network.
You certainly can swap stories later on but it is up to you to motivate, not tell them what to do.