So you want to get promoted?
by Wally Bock
If you want to move up the corporate ladder, it won't be easy. The competition is intense. Here are a few things you can do to make yourself more promotable, starting with taking stock of yourself.
What are your strengths? You want to build on those, while you work to make your weaknesses irrelevant.
What do you offer the company, your team, and your boss? This will probably grow out of your strengths, but asking the question this way helps you think about contribution. All things being equal, the folks who get promoted are the ones who contribute to the company's success.
Here's an example. A young coaching client of mine told me that she "didn't play the game" and "told the truth." She offered those as reasons why others might be getting promoted faster.
After some work, she decided that what she offered her company was an accurate perception of the market that they weren't getting anywhere else. With that insight, she could pay attention to making that contribution more valuable and easier to take.
Next, take stock of your organization. Who gets promoted in your company?
In some companies, the people who get promoted are the ones who deliver solid business results. In some others, a key career skill is playing golf. In some companies, the top jobs go to people from finance, in others it's people from marketing. In some companies the people who scamper up the corporate ladder are the ones who provide legendary customer service, while in others delivering production efficiencies wins the day.
The point is that there is no right or wrong. But there is fit. You want to make a career in a place where what you bring is valued by the company.
If you've got a good fit with the organization, start working on making yourself promotable. But if you don't have a good fit, make plans to leave and get promoted somewhere else.
Your strategy for moving up the organizational ladder has two parts. Part one is to make sure that you're qualified for promotion. Part two is to make sure you're visible so that others know about your work and your name is mentioned when candidates for promotion are considered.
Start out by doing a great job. That sounds obvious, but there are lots of people out there who think that getting promoted is some trick of persuasion. In most companies, persuasion will only get you so far. Then you have to deliver. Make yourself a reputation for delivering high quality results on time.
What results? It's best to ask your boss about that. A friend of mine was notorious for asking every new boss he had the following question: "What will I have to do to get an excellent review from you?" He steadily moved up in his company by delivering what his boss said was important.
Your competition will be producing stellar results, too. That's why it's important not to stop there. You also want to deliver the right results and you want to be visible.
Help your boss succeed. That's part of your job, but it's also part of a "get promotable" strategy.
Develop your skills. You want to develop skills in three areas.
Develop skills that will help you do better at your current job. Learn to do well the tasks that will help you deliver those results that will get you a great review.
Develop the skills that you'll need to move up. If you want to land an overseas assignment, build your knowledge of cross-border business. Learn a language. Study countries where you might be sent and how business is done there.
Develop the skills that your company values. If your company admires people who give good presentations, get some training in presentation skills. If they value technical product knowledge, spend some time mastering the details.
Develop your skills using a technique called "deliberate practice." To do this you practice specific skills or work on learning specific knowledge that will help you perform better. You work in a deliberate way at getting better, a little at a time.
The saying is "practice makes perfect," but that's wrong. Practice only make permanent. Deliberate practice may not make you perfect, but it will help you get better.
Seek opportunities to learn new things. Take both permanent and temporary assignments that help you master new domains of knowledge and performance. The experience you gain and the skills you master on developmental assignments help you stand out from the crowd.
Seek opportunities for visibility. Take both permanent and temporary assignments that build your visibility with key people. You'll want them to remember you when promotion time comes.
Seek evaluation from all quarters. One of the key success behaviors of top performers is that they ask for feedback on how they're doing. Ask your peers. Ask your subordinates. And, especially, ask your boss.
But don't stop there. Analyze your own performance. Take some time after every significant event to evaluate how you performed. Identify things you want to do again. Identify things you want to avoid.
Seek advice. No one of us is smart enough to know it all, especially in unfamiliar territory. So ask for help and guidance. You'll learn a lot, but there's an additional benefit. The people who give you advice will have invested themselves in your success.
Seek relationships. Relationships are powerful sources of knowledge, information and connection. Develop relationships by helping others.
All of the above is sound advice but remember that luck plays a role. Even if you do everything diligently and right, sometimes you won't get the result you want. Evaluate what happened. Then keep going.
Remember that a career is a distance race, not a sprint. The people who succeed in the long race are the ones keep delivering good results, keep developing new skills, and continue to seek out new opportunities.
Wally Bock is an author, speaker, consultant and coach who helps leaders improve their performance. He is the author of Performance Talk: The One-on-One Part of Leadership (http://www.performancetalk.com/) and the Three Star Leadership Blog (http://blog.threestarleadership.com/). Visit http://www.threestarleadership.com/respersonaldevelopment.htm to request your free copy of his Personal Development Guidelines.
Wally Bock may be contacted at http://www.threestarleadership.com/ or email@example.com