3 Keys to Getting Yourself Promoted

Ambition. Some of us have more of it than others. For those highly motivated individuals out there, working hard to get themselves promoted, I offer a few (perhaps less than intuitive) thoughts that will increase your opportunity for advancement.

1.    To get yourself promoted, get your boss promoted.

fastest way to promotion is to clear your path to the next level in the organizational hierarchy. When your boss gets promoted, there is an already established and immediate organizational need. Naturally, when you have been a key part of your boss’s success, it makes sense that you will be identified as the “heir apparent” for the vacated position. Yet, most of us are too worried about our own immediate lanes of responsibility to look at the bigger picture. Pick your head up. Think bigger. How is your boss’s boss defining success? When you understand the priorities two levels up, you can exercise initiative without your boss’s direct guidance. This frees your boss up to focus their energy on creative and strategic initiatives that might garner them greater visibility, increasing their promotion potential—which increases your promotion potential.

2.    Make yourself redundant. 

Huh, won’t that get me fired, rather than promoted? This goes against our own thoughtson self-preservation! For many, the story goes something like this. If I train, coach, and mentor high potential members of my team in everything I know, they will one day take my place and I’ll be without a job. This is backwards thinking. Organizational succession is a dance of resource allocation. You want decision makers to be comfortable with replacing you. When they see the next generation of talent ready to step up, and they feel you are ready to do the same, it becomes a far easier decision to make. Thus, invest in your reports, promote their successes, and create “superstars” that will seamlessly take the reins when you are asked to take on bigger endeavors.

3.    Communicate your desires.

This seems so obvious. Yet, so many people go through their career paths waiting for others to open doors for them. Their default storyline is, as long as I do good work, others will definitely notice, and they will take care of me when promotion opportunities arise. Do you know where you want to be a year from now? How about 5 years from now? Are you communicating those thoughts to others? If not, you are doing yourself a disservice. When you have deliberate and focused career development conversations with powerful decision-makers well in advance, you are planting a seed. People will start looking at you differently, evaluating you against your intentions, and perhaps coaching you as well.

(David understands how effective leadership generates success. A U.S. Army combat veteran with corporate leadership experience, he is the Founder & Principal Consultant of The Leader Growth Group, a firm dedicated to creating self-aware leaders who inspire more engaged and productive workplaces.)

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Gaining & Maintaining Leadership Credibility

count on me LinkedInEveryone’s leadership journey begins with establishing personal credibility. If you successfully establish a high degree of credibility, then your voice will carry weight with others. People will naturally want to listen to your ideas, follow your direction, and collaborate with you in achieving mutually shared goals. If you lack credibility as a leader, then influencing others to achieve results will be problematic, if not impossible.

Think of your credibility like you are building a camping tent. When in a survival situation, establishing shelter takes precedence over all other needs. One can go three days without water, but will die in just a few short hours if left outside in the harsh elements. Similarly, the first step in becoming a leader is to establish your credibility. Each pole in the tent plays an important role in keeping the tent upright. If a single pole is missing, the tent falls over. Likewise, if leaders fail to demonstrate each pole in their tent consistently, their credibility will crumble. Yet, if leaders practice each pole of the tent regularly, they will have a strong shelter of credibility from which to survive the challenges of leadership.

So what actions can a leader take to increase and maintain his or her credibility? First, demonstrating technical competence is the long pole in our tent of credibility. Competence is the price of admission for leadership as one must know their trade and the roles and responsibilities of those they lead. You don’t have to know everything about everyone’s job, but you must have a general level of expertise that earns the respect of your followers. So, let’s assume that you are already demonstrating a high degree of technical competence, as most managers are. What else can one do to create even higher levels of credibility?

1. Walk Your Talk – Call it what you like; walking your talk, practice what you preach, put your money where your mouth is, or simply doing what you say you are going to do. They are all different ways of stating a fundamental leadership truth—a leader’s credibility is a function of how well he or she follows through on his or her promises. It seems so easy, yet, life often gets in the way. With so many stakeholders to please, leaders can easily get in the habit of over-committing themselves. Then, when they fail to deliver on a commitment, they lose credibility. It is the small commitments that we need to be particularly mindful of. The well-intentioned, “I’ll call you back in 15 minutes,” to a client or “Let’s chat about your professional goals next week” to a subordinate that can get us in trouble. When we fail to deliver on these small promises, we also increase the likelihood to miss on our bigger commitments. That’s because we are practicing a lack of credibility and it becomes easier over time to shift our personal standards. So how do we build the habits that lend us greater credibility? Leaders practice managing the expectations of others, and then they over-deliver on those expectations. First, work with your stakeholders to agree upon realistic commitments, even if they are not initially satisfied with your proposed conditions for success. Then, work extra hard to exceed those expectations. For example, if a client wants to talk immediately but you are in a meeting, promise to call them back in less than 15 minutes. They may not be happy, but then manage your time so as to call them back in just 5 minutes. You have now exceeded their standard and have protected, if not enhanced, your credibility.

2. Clarify Expectations – Not fully understanding a leader’s expectations is one of the most frustrating things a follower can experience. It is likely that you have felt firsthand how demotivating this can be. You work your tail off on a project and proudly present your efforts to the boss, only to have him say “this is not what I wanted!” Credible leaders never leave the definition of success a mystery. They clearly explain, upfront and directly, their expectations of followers. The key to doing this well is to communicate expectations by explaining your intent as a leader. A well communicated intent purposefully avoids telling followers “how” something is to be done. Followers can then demonstrate initiative and create the conditions for success by exercising their own creativity. So what then does a well communicated intent include? It is made up of three focused components: task, purpose, and endstate.

  • Task – This is explaining the “what” you want followers to do. Most managers are good at this already so we won’t spend much time on it.
  • Purpose – This is the “why” we need to do it. Frequently as managers, we fail to explain this to our followers. People need to understand the bigger rationale for his or her hard work. It’s motivating to have a deeper purpose than simply doing a task because my manager said it was important; especially if that purpose connects to a shared goal or team objective. More importantly, things change, and if I know why I am doing a task, I can begin to exercise leadership on my own and make decisions in my manager’s absence that will yield success.
  • Endstate – This is when we explain “what right looks like in the end.” The leader should try to “paint a picture” in the mind’s eye of his or her followers as to exactly what he or she expects. The more vivid the image, the better. Often when we do this process, powerful questions will emerge that help enable new levels of clarity for both the leader and followers alike. A great technique to ensure you haven’t missed anything as a leader is to ask for a “back-brief.” This allows the follower to explain what they heard the leader’s expectations to be. Often through verbalizing what they think they heard back to the leader, miscommunications can be identified and prevented before they become an issue.

3. Trust but Verify – After you communicate expectations, follow up does need to happen. This doesn’t mean that you hover over people’s shoulders while they perform their tasks and then inspect their work. No one appreciates micro-management! Instead, leaders provide the proper resources, get out of the way, and trust that great work will happen in their absence. Yet, it doesn’t end there. Leaders verify that expectations and standards have been met. First, it’s a general courtesy to those that are doing the work. If I work hard to meet a leader’s expectations, I expect that my leader will care enough to check-in on my progress. Second, if I do a great job, it is important to me that the leader recognize my work. Finally, if I have missed expectations, I deserve to know that as well. Verification is a very important part of establishing and maintaining credibility as it validates your leadership priorities and personal values.

This post is a sample chapter from my new eBook “ACTIONABLE! Leadership: Develop Your Inspirational Ability, Motivate Teams, & Achieve Extraordinary Results.”  Claim your free copy by following the below link and start taking action towards meeting your full leadership potential.

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