One of the more common reasons clients (and prospects) come to me as a career coach is to secure that long-due promotion that they felt they are owed. Most of the clients tell me about the re-orgs that have happened to scuttle their prospects for a promised promotion. The constant manager musical chairs that happen from these re-orgs often compounds this.
In a typical scenario a client works hard to meet all the obligations that their job requires. They carry out all their boss assignments with diligence and are solid performers in every way. So, at their Annual Performance Review (APR) they march into their managers office anticipating something more than the typical 2-3% salary increase; they expect to get to their next level. They are disappointed that their manager demands more from them than they are already giving. Their manager then lists to them all the things that they should be doing, but are not, despite their hard work. Typically this list includes new initiatives that the client is not doing on their own. The client walks away disappointed because they do not see a way out of their plight to get to the next level.
But, in a more familiar scenario, a typical ambitious client jumps in and volunteers for a great cause to take their managers challenge: A new initiative, either proposed by their skip-level boss in concert with their manager, or something that they have initiated themselves because now they see a staring opportunity to make a mark. In a typical scenario this plays out as a discussion with their manager or their skip-level boss (or often, both) and when their bosses see this as an opportunity to showcase their own leadership to the company management they exploit my clients eagerness to jump in and deliver, often with a promise that if the client now came through for them, getting a promotion would be a breeze.
Not so fast!
Eagereven anxiousclients get seduced by the prospect of a promotion and jump in head first, without setting themselves up for success in what they bargained for. So, for the next year or two they sacrifice their family life and work even harder than before to now deliver what they promised to their immediate chain of command. As they near the end of their task, a tsunami hits thema new org, with old manager(s) replaced by someone completely unknown, new, or outsiders. The outsiders often arrive with their own lieutenants, suddenly leaving you in the lurch, wondering even if you can keep your job, just as youre about to reach your promised land.
This scenario is so common, especially in the Silicon Valley, that every time a client comes to me complaining about their yet another scuttled promise of promotion I can write their script that would be right most of the time.
What are some of the ways to avoid this setback leitmotif and to get what you were promised in the first place? Let us count the ways:
When managers make a promise with their boss(es) in concert to get you going on something that will mostly benefit them in their standing with the upper management they have very little risk in promising you a promotion. Unless you take charge of the situation from the get-go and stay in the drivers seat you are likely to get the short end of the stick. Even if a re-org does not happen and you deliver on your commitment your boss(es) can easily weasel out of the promise by invoking any number of excuses: We did not say youd be promoted if you completed this task, but merely said that we would consider you for it. We are! Or, Things have changed as we are in a process of a merger and we do not want to present ourselves as a top-heavy business before the due diligence is done. And on and on!
On the flip side when the new managers arrive after a re-org everything resets to zero (much like what happens when a paradigm shift occurs!). Even though you have championed and marshaled your project with diligence and shown the results of its success the new manager(s) are not likely to be impressed because of their revised agenda. Your initiative may or may not register on their radar as they are searching to for their own agendas to make a mark in the new regime.
So, what are some of the ways that you can avoid this outcome and keep your career on track with the periodic promotions to help your rsum? Here are some tips that have worked with my clients:
- Merely doing what your job requires and working hard at it does not deserveor warranta promotion. In addition to working hard and delivering results you must make sure that those in the know are aware of your contributions and what value you bring to the organization. So, you must learn how to make your work visible throughout your ecosystem, making sure that no one hijacks away your success.
- If you do not have any original idea to work on that will propel you on a promotional track, ask your HR manager to give you the Competency Matrix. This matrix is a table of competencies that are clearly described at each level and title. So, if you are a manager going for a director promotion look at the list of things that are required for the director to be doing from this matrix and start doing them as if you were a director. Have a discussion with your boss and make them aware of why you are taking on this course of action and get them to help you with it.
- When you have an idea that will improve things that mattera more efficient work unit, a better customer experience, fewer defects going out, etc.make sure that you frame your initiative so that it aligns with your managers and their managers agendas. Develop a clear plan, timeline, and dependencies as if you are running a bona fide project. Get it OKd by your boss and theirs to make sure that the outcome matters to their welfare, not just yours. When you reach this stage get a verbal agreement that if you are able to deliver this outcome that youd get your next promotion. If you do not get this agreement in place beforehand it is your problem.
- Once you have this meeting of the minds, write an email to your boss with a cc to their boss about this agreement and thank them for giving you this opportunity. They will not respond to this email either way, which is your license to put this agreement in place. This is a crucial step, without which you have nothing to hold your management accountable for your fate when you deliver on your promise.
- When you complete your project and deliver on your objectives remind your manager about the promise that was made and show that email (from #4) to remind them of their obligation.
- If a new regime takes over, as youre about to complete your project, you still have that IOU from the previous regime to promote you. If the new management ignores that promise, do not fight your way upstream, but make sure that your new boss is aware of what has happened to you through this change (now you can see why that email from #4 is so important).
- Make a new compact with your current management and extract another promise with yet another initiative. Send yet another email documenting the new agreement and wait until you are at the finish line.
- It is unlikely that your new management will again ignore your agreement and pass you over without giving what they promised.
- As you start navigating through the new undertaking make sure that your contributions and work stay visible to the higher ups. Learn how to do this well without jeopardizing your brand and your reputation; learn how to do this to enhance them, instead.
- Make sure that you give credit to all those who helped you on your team and throughout the ecosystem to make you successful on your project before you go marching into your boss office to claim that promotion.
Securing a promotion takes a lot more than diligent work and producing consistent results. You must learn how to make your chain of command look good in their roles so that they feel compelled to pull you up with them.
Dilip has distinguished himself as LinkedIn’s #1 career coach from among a global pool of over 1,000 peers ever since LinkedIn started ranking them professionally (LinkedIn selected 23 categories of professionals for this ranking and published this ranking from 2006 until 2012). Having worked with over 6,000 clients from all walks of professions and having worked with nearly the entire spectrum of age groups—from high-school graduates about to enter college to those in their 70s, not knowing what to do with their retirement—Dilip has developed a unique approach to bringing meaning to their professional and personal lives. Dilip’s professional success lies in his ability to codify what he has learned in his own varied life (he has changed careers four times and is currently in his fifth) and from those of his clients, and to apply the essence of that learning to each coaching situation.
After getting his B.Tech. (Honors) from IIT-Bombay and Master’s in electrical engineering(MSEE) from Stanford University, Dilip worked at various organizations, starting as an individual contributor and then progressing to head an engineering organization of a division of a high-tech company, with $2B in sales, in California’s Silicon Valley. His current interest in coaching resulted from his career experiences spanning nearly four decades, at four very diverse organizations–and industries, including a major conglomerate in India, and from what it takes to re-invent oneself time and again, especially after a lay-off and with constraints that are beyond your control.
During the 45-plus years since his graduation, Dilip has reinvented himself time and again to explore new career horizons. When he left the corporate world, as head of engineering of a technology company, he started his own technology consulting business, helping high-tech and biotech companies streamline their product development processes. Dilip’s third career was working as a marketing consultant helping Fortune-500 companies dramatically improve their sales, based on a novel concept. It is during this work that Dilip realized that the greatest challenge most corporations face is available leadership resources and effectiveness; too many followers looking up to rudderless leadership.
Dilip then decided to work with corporations helping them understand the leadership process and how to increase leadership effectiveness at every level. Soon afterwards, when the job-market tanked in Silicon Valley in 2001, Dilip changed his career track yet again and decided to work initially with many high-tech refugees, who wanted expert guidance in their reinvention and reemployment. Quickly, Dilip expanded his practice to help professionals from all walks of life.
Now in his fifth career, Dilip works with professionals in the Silicon Valley and around the world helping with reinvention to get their dream jobs or vocations. As a career counselor and life coach, Dilip’s focus has been career transitions for professionals at all levels and engaging them in a purposeful pursuit. Working with them, he has developed many groundbreaking approaches to career transition that are now published in five books, his weekly blogs, and hundreds of articles. He has worked with those looking for a change in their careers–re-invention–and jobs at levels ranging from CEOs to hospital orderlies. He has developed numerous seminars and workshops to complement his individual coaching for helping others with making career and life transitions.
Dilip’s central theme in his practice is to help clients discover their latent genius and then build a value proposition around it to articulate a strong verbal brand.
Throughout this journey, Dilip has come up with many groundbreaking practices such as an Inductive Résumé and the Genius Extraction Tool. Dilip owns two patents, has two publications in the Harvard Business Review and has led a CEO roundtable for Chief Executive on Customer Loyalty. Both Amazon and B&N list numerous reviews on his five books. Dilip is also listed in Who’s Who, has appeared several times on CNN Headline News/Comcast Local Edition, as well as in the San Francisco Chronicle in its career columns. Dilip is a contributing writer to several publications. Dilip is a sought-after speaker at public and private forums on jobs, careers, leadership challenges, and how to be an effective leader.
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