How To Get Promoted Sooner

How To Get Promoted

It’s a tough competition for roles at the top. In nearly 30 years of coaching and consulting with the c-level and those who want to get there, I’ve seen more than a few interesting tactics for climbing the corporate ladder. Some work. Some make people angry and destroy trust. And some have an element of both. But what do you do in the face of ruthless competition? We’ve all met the narcissists in the board room. Their off-putting tactics have a way of helping them get ahead, but what do you do when those tactics aren’t you? And worse, what do you do when they are the competition that could sideline you from getting promoted? 

You certainly don’t play their game. But how do you win?

Demonstrate Adaptive Leadership

There is good news! In the past several years, the pace of change has sped up exponentially. This means that both problems and opportunities in organizations are increasingly complex and require a different kind of leadership to make progress or solve. Because in most cases, these challenges (adaptive in nature) are bigger than the leader alone. Egotistical leaders thrive in environments where the leader has all the answers and can dole out the tasks that need to be done, but today, that is less effective. Collaboration is critical to mobilizing people in the face of complex adaptive challenges and that is where ego and narcissism fall down. So, if you want to win, you must drive the kind of collaboration where ideas come from anywhere while also demonstrating visible leadership.

Invest In Your Development

It’s a bit counterintuitive. Maybe even uncomfortable at first.

You must be so committed to your development that you are willing to be vulnerable about what you don’t know and are working on. This requires a bit of strategic thinking around your strengths and weaknesses…and which to share. But before you start sharing, you must understand a few things. When I say understand, I don’t mean half-heartedly. I mean the cold, hard, firm grasp on reality kind of understanding. This is how you begin to win. 

1. Know how you are perceived by those responsible for your next role. 

  • What do they think you need to demonstrate to move up? 
  • What must you deliver? 
  • How must you be perceived and how does that need to shift from how you are perceived today? AND, who is doing the perceiving…whose vote matters? 

The only way to know is to ask and be open to hearing the answers. Be prepared to ask a lot of questions without getting defensive or engage a coach who can do this for you. Priority number one is to understand where you stand.

2. Start setting priorities for what you need to (and want to) work on. 

This requires humility, a willingness to be vulnerable, openness to others’ input, and a willingness to work on the things you need. Pick the top 3. No more, to start.

3. Prepare yourself to start sharing what you are working on with the people who matter.

Your goal is to leave the people who get a vote with the sense that you are self-aware. That you know what you need to work on, and that you are ready to work hard to do that. Be prepared to ask for their help with it. Get their advice and find out who can help. Then go talk to them. If you feel comfortable, tell your team what you are working on. Ask for their help too. Often, just by having these conversations, we can create the perception of progress. Be sure to check in periodically, not to be a pest, but to get their feedback on how you’re doing. Particularly when you have progress to share.

One of my clients was a VP of Merchandising for a large retailer. He was being considered for SVP, but the powers that be didn’t think he was strategic enough. The competition was fierce. Truly a dog-eat-dog kind of place. We did some 360 feedback and helped him better understand how he was perceived and what ‘not strategic’ really meant in this organization. The funny thing was that this guy had a great strategy. He had built a team with a lot of foresight and seemed to understand the big picture. But perceptions are perceptions and he had never really shared his strategy with others. We helped him turn his strategy into a beautiful presentation. He set up “strategic planning meetings” with many senior people who would influence the decision to promote him. He shared his strategy presentation and talked about how his area both impacted and integrated into the broader organization and the business results he expected to drive. He received great feedback on his ability to think strategically and was promoted 3 months later.

Sharing what you are working on and asking for help is the single biggest thing that will drive your development and get you promoted. I’ve seen it work over and over again. If you want a coach to help you create a strategy to get to your next role – or get you off the sidelines, or if you’ve got a direct report with potential who seems to be stuck in the mire, call us. It’s what we do.