Everyone wants a promotion, but it’s not as simple as waiting a year or two to “get” one. That’s because promotions are earned, not given. This is especially true at the leadership level; professionals need to prove their worth and show that they’re ready for career advancement.
Demonstrating value isn’t making a one-time presentation to senior leadership about why a promotion is deserved. It requires a conscious effort to improve and grow as a leader and simultaneously position yourself as a high-performing professional. Here’s how:
1.Demonstrate a track record of delivering.
The first, basic step to any kind of career advancement is competence. It sounds really simple, but it’s something that many professionals just assume. After a certain amount of time, employees just expect a promotion, but they don’t stop to think if they really are effective.
In fact, a September study from Leadership IQ found that fewer than half of employees know if they’re doing a good job.
Prepare for a promotion by reviewing past performance evaluations. Are there any gaps in performance? Talk with managers, supervisors, and co-workers. What needs to be improved? What can be done better?
Look at strengths, too. Gather data, records and any other evidence of a solid track record for delivering. Look for goals that have been met, successful completed projects, and other accomplishments that show effectiveness. Then, use these examples in performance talks with senior leadership.
Finally, look at which skills fall between strengths and weaknesses. Identify the middle skills that, with a little bit of effort, can show a visible increase in performance.
2. Delegate strategically.
Professionals can’t take on more responsibility if they’re always swamped with work -- especially leaders. Great leaders delegate tasks and lead employees through them, freeing up their time to focus on strategy and other high-level tasks.
Leaders ready for career advancement should take a look at what they spend the majority of their time at work doing. Is there room for more responsibility? Can certain tasks be delegated to the team? Can their time be better spent on strategic initiatives and guiding the team as opposed to actually doing the groundwork?
Once tasks are appropriately delegated to the team, ask senior leadership for more responsibility at the strategic level. Ask for challenges and demonstrate the capability to take on more.
3. Gain a bird’s eye view of the organization.
To be competent in their current position, leaders need to understand their team and their department, and find ways to improve processes, employee satisfaction, and success in that silo. But for career advancement, leaders need to have that same ability across the organization.
Having a broad view and understanding of the organization is a sign that leaders are ready for the next step. As professionals move up in the company, they need to be ready to bring innovation and make changes across the business.
Promotions bring new opportunities to lead, implement changes, and make decisions that will have a positive impact. But to launch new ideas and initiatives, leaders need to know the business inside and out. They need to understand the company vision, mission and strategy and with this broader picture in mind identify what the company is doing well and what can be improved. They need to know what has and hasn’t worked in the past, the role of different departments and leaders within the organization, and the overall guiding mission and vision.
To prepare for this change, take a step back from daily responsibilities and look at the organization as a whole. Are there any gaps in knowledge? Talk to senior leaders, different teams, and others within the company to fill these gaps and learn as much as possible. To make the most of these conversations and leave a good impression, understand the company’s competition, market and goals.
4. Effectively communicate.
Communication is a huge part of effective leadership, and the best communicators know that it comes down to context. After all, research conducted by our company, Skyline Group International, Inc., found that leadership exists on a spectrum. In other words, leaders are seen as effective depending on the situation and their audience.
For example, our research found that men in leadership tend to listen to understand the main points of what the speaker is saying while women in leadership tend to want to understand what the speaker is feeling. Both of these strategies can be effective, depending on the situation and the audience.
To reach the next level of their career, leaders need to understand this and develop different communication tactics. That way, they can be effective whether they’re communicating with clients, team members or the CEO.
5. Establish an executive presence.
For leaders, part of career success comes down to how they represent themselves. Leaders need to have a certain level of executive presence for career advancement. What exactly does that mean?
Executive presence refers to how leaders conduct themselves in the workplace and how they are seen by their colleagues and employees. Our research suggests that men in leadership are seen as more effective when they command respect, while women who present themselves with poise and authenticity are seen as more effective.
However, great leadership comes down to balance. Find a middle ground between these two gendered extremes to be respected by peers and viewed as senior leadership material. Behave in a way fitting with company values and demonstrate a personality and professionalism expected from an executive.