Published On: Thu, Jun 19th, 2014

Keys To Getting Promoted

Early on in our careers most of us don’t really understand what it takes to move up. We can quickly figure out what it takes to do well at our current job, while we don’t know what it takes to succeed at our boss’s job. Some people languish in the same position / title for years and years and always wonder why they are not moving ahead while their peer who “knows less” is moving up through the ranks.

Let’s dig a little deeper…

A promotion is defined as: an advancement in rank or position. An advancement of rank implies you have more people below you. This means you need good leadership skills to move up. An advancement in position implies that you’ll be working on different things and will need to expand your skill set. Therefore, we need at least two things for promotion – better leadership skills and more skills in general. The challenge is: how to acquire these skills and meet the responsibilities of your current position? When you need to learn how to do something right you go to the gurus. In this case, I took some principals from one of Warren Buffet’s most successful managers, D.L. Sokol.

The path may seem somewhat indirect but it makes sense.

  1. Always give 110% to everything you do.
  2. Be professional and operate with integrity at all times.
  3. Trust yourself and your instincts.
  4. Own it! Accept responsibility and accountability for all of your actions.

1. The saying goes that if you want something done give it to a busy person. Someone that works hard all the time and gives 110% is the person you are going to go to when you need something done right. Inevitably this leads to more and more responsibility because everyone will go to that person with their tasks. Senior individuals will notice this and be selective about ensuring that individual only works on important tasks that are likely to be the most challenging and rewarding. More tasks = more skills. Also, naturally the additional responsibility means someone will need to take over the previous tasks. This is solved by hiring someone. Voila – this is a promotion. Become that “go-to” person. When you work hard people want to work with you and they want you to succeed. They will also be cheerleaders for you in your career progression.

2. Nothing gets in the way of professionalism faster than an ego. Leave your EGO at home. What do I mean? If you go into a meeting and someone is a jackass and insults your work or accuses you of making a mistake, don’t lose your cool and let your ego take over. Sure, you might look like you “won a battle” but you’ll also look like you can’t handle stress, criticism and can’t maintain your cool. Respond with facts and relevant business information – DO NOT make it personal. Does your boss want to put someone who can’t maintain their cool in front of an important client or investor? Not really. On several occasions, I’ve had to deal with someone getting angry or unprofessional in a meeting. The times I maintained my cool, they invariably reached out to me and apologized for their behavior after the fact. I also noticed that they treated me with more respect thereafter. Being professional means: you’re on-time, courteous, respectful of other peoples time and opinions, open, honest and fair. Professionalism is an important quality of any leader.

3. While performing our day to day jobs, we accumulate a massive amount of information. This is all stored in our brain and is a huge databank of data available for when we need it. Fortunately, our brains are so advanced that we often immediately know the right answer when an important decision needs to be made. Unfortunately, a large number of us get paralyzed and don’t EXECUTE the right decision. Whether it’s firing someone that is under-performing or promoting someone early that deserves it, we often hesitate and delay when there is risk associated with the decision even though we KNOW the right answer. Good leaders trust their instincts, MAKE decisions and are 100% accountable for them.

4. We all make mistakes. In fact the natural human error rate is 7%.  We hardly ever design something perfectly the first time we build it. If perfection was possible, we’d still be driving around in cars designed by Henry Ford himself. Mistakes are only natural. What’s important is how you respond to a mistake. First and foremost, don’t make excuses – OWN IT. Explain why it happened and how you are going to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. Make sure you have a positive attitude about it too. There is no point in getting discouraged. Leaders don’t wait for someone to pat them on the back and say everything is going to be OK. Leaders are the ones doing the patting. It’s okay to be angry with yourself and it’s okay to show a little of this anger outwardly. However, keep it short and use that anger as energy to fix the problem, and then put the necessary controls and processes in place to reduce the risk of it happening again. Just the act of making things better will expand your skill set and make you a better leader. Be grateful for mistakes, they are an opportunity to learn and improve.

Getting promoted is not that complicated but it does require hard work, discipline, diligence and focus at all times. Once you gain momentum following the above principals you’ll never look back.

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