The words “I was passed over for a promotion” are all too common in my line of work. Each week, I visit with a disgruntled individual who wants to leave their current employer due to a promotion opportunity that passed by. While some individuals may have a valid concern, my guess is that many do not.
Many of these employees feel ready to take the next step in responsibility since they have put in their time, and have proven their ability to perform. In their mind, they have earned that new title, pay raise and the opportunity to make a difference.
Many of you may feel the same about your current career. You are happy with your success thus far, and feel you are ready to take that next step. However, the unanswered question is — have you really proven to your employer that you’re ready?
The biggest mistake I see individuals make is the perception that success is equivalent to leadership. Simply because you have been leading your organization in sales, or have accomplished more than others in similar roles, doesn’t automatically prove you are ready to increase your responsibility. These factors alone simply show your ability to perform in your current role, but don’t offer much insight into whether or not you can lead.
The Qualities Of A Leader
So what shows your employer that you’re ready to lead? There have been many great books and articles surrounding this very topic. One of the authors that caught my eye was Dan Schawbel, who is most known for his books and articles on personal development and personal promotion. While there are many folks who have taken a very complicated approach to getting promoted, Schawbel has distilled that complex process into four very simple things:
- The ability to consistently prioritize work and meet deadlines.
- A positive attitude.
- Working well with the team.
- Consistently putting the team’s best interest ahead of their own.
I agree with this list 100%. Each time I’ve worked with an organization that has made a decision to either promote from within or hire an outside individual, these four items are key components to their decision-making process. While performance in the current role is a factor, it’s typically not as important as these qualities. Here is a quick review of why these qualities are so important.
1. Your ability to “get your stuff done” is a skill that shows your supervisor and coworkers more than you think. Consider this, it’s very easy to skip past difficult items on your to do list and stick with the easy ones first. An individual who can consistently get things done on time, and takes on the challenging tasks first, is providing insight into how they will handle leadership. You don’t want a leader that will ignore difficult situations in favor of easy things to do.
2. A positive attitude should be of no surprise on this list. Your ability to approach change, opportunities and challenges with a “glass half-full” perspective is necessary if you want to be a leader. People don’t want to follow someone that can’t help but react negatively to everything that comes along. In fact, a negative attitude is probably the fastest way to get labeled as a “bad boss.” Consider your reaction to changes in your organization. Were you positive, and planned to make the best of it? Or did you jump in with everyone else and start expressing your concerns?
3. Regardless of your role in the company, you are part of a team. If you find that the only time you interact with others in your organization is when you need something from one of them, or are being ordered to do so, you’re probably not well suited to be a leader. To be perceived as a leader, these interactions should be conveying team and leadership characteristics such as trust, respect, unselfish actions, etc.
4. I could call this item “The Silent Promotion Killer.” It sounds a bit extreme, but it’s true. This gets to the core of why an individual wants to be a leader. Is it for personal gain? Or is it for the opportunity to work with others and make a positive difference in the organization? Your ability to approach challenges and opportunities with a selfless attitude is insight into how you will lead. If that unselfish approach isn’t there — it’s a deal breaker.
These items are not quick fixes. These are perceptions and actions that build up over time. While I can’t guarantee that improving these four areas will get you the next promotion, I can guarantee that recognizing how important they are, and working to improve yourself in these core areas will make you a better teammate, a better employee and ultimately a better prospect for future career opportunities.