Four Surprising Strategies that get You Promoted
#1. Prepare your replacement:
Work yourself out of a job before working into one. Train and enable your replacement so your transition upward is an easy choice.
The more essential you are the less effective you’ve become. If you’re indispensable where you are, you won’t move up. Your job is enabling and supporting others not making yourself indispensable.
#2. Adapt to your boss:
I just chatted with a VP of a large organization who said one reason he earns promotions is he adapts to his boss rather than working to change them. Its foolish to push against your boss.
Adapting isn’t playing dead. Adapting is learning from your current boss’s style and strengths.
#3. Have an empty cup:
Leaders are learners. People with full cups don’t have room to learn. Stop focusing on things you know, start focusing on things you don’t know.
#4. Learn people skills:
It’s likely you were hired for your technical expertise. Promotions, however, go to those who are good with people. If that’s offensive to you, you just revealed your problem.
Missing the mark:
Questions are one indicator of your success. The more questions you are asked the less others are prepared to act without you.
What are the reasons you were promoted?
What other strategies help people earn promotions?
Good post, Dan. This topic helps us focus outside ourselves and to think about our future and what we want. I think I was promoted because I was good with people and I took initiative. Technical ability seems to be the floor for many promotions, but I think you are right, a person’s ability with people, to delegate, to develop others, to think strategically, and to act on what is important not just urgent seem to be qualities that help leaders get recognized.
The only other comment would be personal development. The quality of a person’s character is equally important to the skills you have and what you know. Humility, grace, integrity are attributes of one’s character that determine the breadth and depth of who you are. It is often the “who you are” that distinguishes you as a leader.
Jim, great point about personal development, because it’s so easy to focus on professional skills. Be the employee you would like to have, and be the leader you would like to follow.
I like the comment about taking initiative. By seeing what needs to be done and then being the catalyst to get it done gets noticed by management.
Love this post. I never pushed for a promotion in my life, but I never really thought about why they came. Reading this, I can see a couple things that probably had an impact. First, I have always pushed knowledge out and down as far as I could, so that decisions don’t have to wait for me. And second, I have always been intentional about being the employee my boss hired me to be; I just always thought that was a basic part of the employment contract.
The only thing I’d add to this is to have an abundance mentality (there’s enough good stuff — recognition, money, promotion — for everyone). A scarcity mentality will lead to you compete with your peers, which becomes tiresome to your boss. An abundance mentality will lead you to unselfishly help your peers for the good of the organization, and then every exec is going to want you in his/her department.
Volunteer, say ‘yes’ to new tasks or even better ask if you can tackle the new ‘problem’.
Be Positive–it is a choice. Reframe negative elements in opportunities–all is a matter of perception. Coupled with that is enjoy what you are and are doing. Have fun.
Believe, be passionate about what you do, who you are.
Variation on your #2–Semper Gumby–stay flexible and adaptable to all situations above and below.
And as Dan noted, never stop learning, if you have stopped growing you have begun to stagnate. That’s a fact, Jack.
I appreciate your effort to state surprising strategies to get promotion. While this is the positive side of promotion, there is also dark side of it. I believe reason for promotion is interest match, value match and nature match with your boss. Though performance should be the main criteria, but relations and connections play better role in promotion. Talent and intelligence alone is not enough today. I strongly believe that promotion is based more on adaptability and compromise. As long as, it does not harm others, your values and society, it is well accepted. But when it harms others then it is not good. Today, prevalent practices are based on second parameter. People measure promotion only criteria for success. They compromise and sacrifice so many things for promotion that can’t be compensated by promotion. I have seen my friends doing unfair, unethical things just to adapt to the situation and please boss, and they get promotion even before time. Is it really a success? Is this kind of promotion really increasing value? We need to think deeply. Promotion and value protection are two different success parameter. Promotion is externally driven and value protection in internally driven. The success is decided by your true north and what is important for you in your life. Whether value based promotion or value compromise based promotion.
I appreciate the reflection you suggest. Increased levels of responsibility should not be a reflection of one’s self-worth (one of the difficulties I have with the word “promotion”). In addition to evaluating the sacrifices necessary for the role, whether they are ethical issues, impact on family, etc, it is also important to evaluate our real motives for wanting a particular position. Is it because we can genuinely be helpful? Do we have talents, skills, and experience to offer in the new role? I cringe to see individuals without people skills griping about being unappreciated (Dan’s Point #4).
Thank you for acknowledgement and appreciation. Value is the critical parameter for promotion. Compromising it may lead to promotion but holding it may not lead to promotion. However, one thing is very much clear, holding and believing in personal values definitely guarantee satisfaction, happiness and sustainable success.
I think attitude is very important in getting prompted. I have been promoted and held back from being promoted because of my attitude. (I had to learn the importance of my attitude the hard way)
I also believe being teachable and and having people skills are essential. This is a quality post.
I would adapt the 4 strategies and point out an inherent difficulty in your number 1. The problem with preparing your successor is political vulnerability. I hate saying it as I believe in the underlying philosophy but the consequences of altruistic behavior can be harsh. I know of the leader of a major recruitment firm says that preparing your sucessor is a load of ……..! Better I think to make your number 1 the delivery of consistent value to the organisation and those above you. The other 3 strategies fit well with that. By all means, prepare a successor but be savvy and make sure it isn’t to your detriment.
Attitude dicedes everything.
I am in full agreement to the 4 essential steps as suggested by you. These are the essentials to get easily picked up for promotion. I may add ‘positive contributions with consistency ‘ and ‘readiness to take broader responsibilities with integrity’ as 2 other important factors to get recognized for higher promotion.
Promotion is the reflection of good recognition and reward for your overall good performance; work-wise, people-wise and creation of a healthy climate of productivity & growth in the specific areas of your operations. Winning the trust of decision-makers on merits is the key for timely promotion.
Continue good work in the interest of an organization with or without promotion to get the self-satisfaction and move forward to advance the professional development in the field of your choice.
In line with item #2, when I was new at my job the best piece of advice I received was make your manager’s life easier. Each manager needs something different from employees and meeting that need will get you and your talents noticed faster. In addition if things always go well when a manager works will you they will tend to give you responsibility faster leading to promotions
Love the points you’ve pulled out. A touch of humility will aid someone in following this advice. Not so easy to conjure both — humility and ambition — but those who do will emerge the true leaders.
“Questions are one indicator of your success. The more questions you’re asked the less you’ve prepared others to act without you.”
Wow! This hits home, because it seems I’m always the “go-to” guy and I’m pulled fifteen different directions. I thought it was good to be knowledgable (and it is), yet it is even more important to pass that knowledge along to others so you can get out of their way.
Thanks for this, Dan!
James, Thanks for pointing out and highlighting an idea that resonates with you. It does with me too. During a recent initiative, I noticed that I was being asked fewer questions. At first it felt like I wasn’t in the nceter of things. Then I realized I wasn’t and that was good. Best to you, Dan
I read this article and smiled because I was promoted 4 times in 6 years in my corporate job and it was precisely due to these reasons. Loved the one about people skills – there was one woman who would have winced at that because I was promoted above her because she had no people skills at all. Thanks for the article!
Jenny, You story will encourage others. Thanks for sharing it. Best, Dan
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