4 Ways to Get Ahead in Any Organization

Aspiration that contaminates enjoyment sabotages success.


If you aspire to the first chair, sit in the second chair with humility.

4 ways to get ahead in any organization:

#1. Thrive in the shadows.

If you aspire to get ahead, help someone else get ahead.

Swen Nater made it to the NBA by making Bill Walton better. (Lynn Guerin)

You never get ahead by tearing down the people ahead of you. Spotlight others without degrading yourself.

  1. Adopt her goals.
  2. Compensate for his weaknesses.
  3. Share your ideas.

Respect the challenge of leading before you sit at the head of the table. Be a great number two if you aspire to be number one.

#2. Pull weeds without destroying the garden.

Aspiration comes out as complaint for the emotionally naïve. Advancement comes slowly for complainers.

Improve the present without demonizing the past.

“I wonder how we might reach higher,” sounds better than, “This sucks.”

  1. Build up more than tear down. More shout-outs and fewer shout-downs.
  2. Don’t expect the people you complain about to promote you.
  3. Brag about the people on your team. Highlight their accomplishments.

Give yourself permission to make improvements and solve problems.

#3. Seek to contribute more than getting ahead.

  1. Don’t harp about your desire to get ahead to higher ups. Discuss it occasionally.
  2. Use ‘earn’ language. How might I earn a place at the table?
  3. If a record of contribution doesn’t earn opportunity, your record will earn opportunity elsewhere.

#4. Work to strengthen relationships.

Relationship skill means more than technical skill as you move up.

Solve drama. Don’t create it.

John Wooden, “Never strive to be better than someone else.” (A conversation with Lynn Guerin)

4 Quick tips:

  1. Avoid busy work. Focus your energy on work that matters.
  2. Explore opportunities. Constantly research where your team or organization might go next.
  3. Arrive early. If you’re so busy that you’re always late, you have time management issues.
  4. Volunteer for tough assignments.

What prevents people from getting ahead?

How might leaders earn promotions?

Bonus material:

8 Habits of Employees That Get Promoted | Glassdoor