Want to make your manager uncomfortable? Try one of these below out on them.
“When am I going to get promoted?”
“I’ve been in this position for two years, I should have been promoted by now.”
“Why does <insert first and last name here> get promoted, and I get looked over every single time?”
Want to NOT get promoted? Try one of these above out on them.
In my 15+ years in being a people leader, promotion conversations are some of the most difficult to have with an associate. After all, these promotion questions and statements are almost always difficult conversations where the manager needs to explain to a (usually) solid employee that a promotion is not in their near future. Possible promotion talk is a welcomed conversation to a manager. Many managers “give away” the promotion news too early because they too are excited about the news. Odds are if you have to ask, you are not ready in your manager’s eyes.
Promotions feel a little bit out of your control. Sure you can work hard, smart, and long, but that will not ensure a promotion. You need to understand what a manager looks at to promote you, regardless where you are on the corporate ladder. I have never seen this written down in a book, and most managers don’t understand it themselves; therefore, they will not be able to tell you.
In general, there are 5 requirements for an associate to receive a promotion.
- Results in your current role are reflective of potential success
- Competencies demonstrated at the NEXT level to compete with your new peers
- You possess the technical or job specific skills for the role
- The role and scope of the role is available
- You have advocates, preferably influential ones
Results in your current role reflective of potential success
If you want to get promoted, be awesome at your day job. Yes, this appears as a “Captain Obvious” statement. However, so many think their current role is beneath them. Once an associate takes their role for granted, their best rarely comes out. Don’t drop your day job.
One of my most valuable lessons in business came in my first “professional” job at Tiffany & Co.. I was a phone agent in the Customer Authorizations Department setting up private label credit cards for our customers. I could do it in my sleep after about six months; it felt natural to me as a combination of art and science. I was faster than others in my group. I was more accurate than others in my group. I was consistently requested by our internal customers to help them out. I could have breezed, beat everyone out with a minimal amount of effort. I did the opposite. I busted out twice as much work, and volunteered and “Leaned In” while keeping up the pace. I put in a lot of hours that were never recorded. I never mentioned a promotion, but discussed my future. I got promoted. If I skated through, I may have been promoted at some time, but I could have just as easy been passed over for an external candidate.
Competencies demonstrated at the NEXT level to compete with new peers
Competencies are about how you get work done. How you get the work done is just as important as the results. Let me provide an example. A Project Manager could get a lot done and possibly good results by being a ruthless barbarian of a leader. It will not last long, as their relationships will suffer. Most likely they are not showing strong communication or teamwork skills. Competencies must be demonstrated at the next level or role.
Competencies most managers look for:
- Communication skills – oral, written, and presentation
- Results Driven
- Teamwork – intra-team and cross functional
- Understands and integrates data to make decisions
- Ability to influence others
- Focuses on the customer
- Lives the Values of the organization
- Can work autonomously
- Efficiently leverages resources
- Looks the part
Alright, looks the part is not a competency. But portraying an image of someone who belongs at the next level is critical. If you are fantastic in every way but look like you just woke up and threw on he sweatpants, you are adding an extra hurdle. Even if the sweatpants fit in your corporate dress policy, you are doing the bare minimum. Take pride in your appearance, and give yourselves a pant leg up, no shorts please.
You possess the technical skills or job specific skills for the role
Odds are if you are getting a promotion, you will have new responsibilities. These new responsibilities may be managing associates, managing 10X the number of current associates, use a specific technology, budgetary, able to communicate to large audiences or public speaking, build strategies, negotiate a deal, understand influences on stock price, project or program management, etc… It will be different for every role and level. Find out what are the technical skills your manager does today. Offer to help them next time they need to accomplish a like task. Create a personal development action plan. If you are promoted, you may need to use this skill on day 1.
The role and the scope of the role is available
You may be promotable for every reason, but if your organization does not need a person in that role, promotion is rare. When this is the case, you have four choices:
- Influence the need
- Create a new role that is needed
- Suck it up
- Leave the department or company
You have advocates, preferably influential ones
Promotion is rarely decided entirely by one person in medium to large size organizations. Most often, your manager’s manager is involved. If there are multiple people at that level, each one may be included in the promotion thought process. Most organizations, at least, include Human Resources in the promotion process. Key take away: you need more than just your direct manager as an advocate.
How do you acquire advocates? Here are a number of different ways to build advocacy:
- Find mentors to build on your weaker competencies
- Go above and beyond in your normal job so that you are impossible to miss
- Join cross functional teams
- Ask good thoughtful questions, perhaps over a cup of coffee
- Get out of your cube/office and make a physical presence
- Buy doughnuts, and walk around meeting new people
- Be visible
Understanding the key drivers of promotions puts you in control, removes the victim tonality out promotion conversations, and stops putting your manager in an awkward position. Be awesome at your current role. Build and demonstrate competencies at the next level. Acquire the job specific skills needed for that new role. Make sure it will or is available. Find your advocates or make them.