Unwritten Way to Get Promoted
By Jennifer Eggers, Andersen
Alumnus and Founder
& President of LeaderShift
As a senior executive
coach, I work with high performing executives at a variety of companies across
many different industries. Admittedly, most are large companies with a few
exceptions. One of the most rewarding things about this job is the ability to
see patterns and help clients see around “corners” so they are better prepared
to navigate hurdles before they get there. One of those patterns is about how
to get promoted and frankly, while I primarily focus on senior leaders, this
one is valid at any level.
If your goal is to get
promoted, obviously you know you need the skills and competency to do the job
you aspire to, but that is more often than not, not all you need. In addition
to the obvious, today the people getting the top jobs are extremely proactive
in understanding and managing their career stakeholders and in building
sponsors and advocates strategically along the way. For some, this comes
naturally, but for the rest of us mere mortals, it requires a bit of foresight.
First, book some
dedicated time to think about this. It won’t happen while you are putting out
fires. Put it on your calendar, turn off your phone or go to a quiet conference
room. Or make it your airplane project the next time you take a long flight
(before you turn on the wifi). Think about the next 3-6 years of your career.
Try to think two roles from where you are now. What do you want to do? Where in
the company (or outside of it) are those roles? What kind of skills do they
require (think about the skills you need to build and demonstrate)? How do
people need to perceive you? And most importantly, who are those people?
Once you are sort of
clear (it might still be a bit fuzzy – that’s OK) on what you want to do/where
you want to go, make a list of stakeholders. Ask yourself:
- Who are the people
today that have a say in your advancement (your boss, their boss, your
boss’s peers, etc.)?
- Who is likely to be
in the room when your boss is asked about the talent on their team?
- Who is doing those
- Who has a say in who
gets those roles?
- Who can advocate for
you when you’re not in the room with that audience?
- Who do you not know
that needs to know you?
- Who can introduce
you to them?
- Who could derail you
from the role you want?
You should end up with a
list of 10-15 stakeholders you can cultivate to build advocacy and sponsorship.
Now, your job is to start
finding reasons to connect with these people on a regular basis. These aren’t
just casual meet and greets, although that’s a good place to start. These
meetings should have an agenda, so things don’t get awkward, and no one is
wondering why you’re there. Think of them as a chance to:
- Learn more about their business
- Understand their role and what they are working on
- Ask for their help in understanding what you need to do to get the role you want
- Showcase work you are doing that relates to their area
- Demonstrate interest and competency
- Ask for their coaching and support – be direct about this, but don’t lead with it, develop rapport first
Many of my clients, even at
the highest levels, struggle with this. It can feel like something you just
shouldn’t have to do or like a waste of time when your calendar is otherwise
jam packed with “real” work. For some, it never occurred to them to do it. If
you are introverted, this won’t be easy, but it is necessary. If you have
higher aspirations, particularly in a larger organization, this needs to be as
much a part of your job as the results you are required to deliver.
If you want help
strategizing about how to get your next senior leadership role, call us.
It’s what we do.
Jennifer Eggers is the Founder and President of LeaderShift Insights®, a firm with deep expertise aligning structure, people, and investments to drive strategy and increase leaders and organization capacity to adapt in the face of disruption. She is a former Partner with Cambridge Leadership Group, Vice-President, Leadership Development & Learning for Bank of America, and has held several other senior roles in Learning, Organization & Leadership Development at AutoZone and Coca-Cola Enterprises. She started her career with Arthur Andersen’s Business Consulting Practice in Metro New York.