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The Executive Guide to Getting the Next Promotion

Updated: May 14, 2021

So you are ready for a promotion but your boss doesn’t see it? This is a common situation. Are you strong technically but not so strong with the people skills? Or is it that you don’t’ communicate your strengths and skills to your boss? Whatever the reason, if you want that promotion here is what you need to know and do. These time tested, proven strategies have helped many a forlorn leader receive the promotion and recognition sought.

So how do you show him/her that you are indeed ready?

Develop Relationships

This is multi-pronged. You may be strong technically, but that’s not enough. You may be a solid decision maker and a visionary. That’s not enough either. You must be seen as someone that people want to work with and for. It means being approachable and actively participating with your team(s). The CEO of a small telecom company I worked with would start each day by walking around the office and plant. With sleeves rolled up and a smile on his face he would do check ins, ask questions and build relationships with his team. To him his team was everyone from the guy with a broom on the shop floor to the CFO. He had built solid relationships that benefitted him in many ways. People didn’t hesitate in approaching him with issues if they needed him to be aware.

Tom Peters created the acronym MBWA: Managing by Walking Around. His guidance has helped leaders to know that sitting in their offices all day doesn’t build the kind of team communication that leads to success. So you want to be recognized? Get out there and let people see you, engage with you and get to know you!

Build a Solid Relationship With Your Boss

Visibility with your boss can make that promotion a reality. Talk with him/her. Make sure he/she knows your strengths and successes. Try to talk with your boss on a human_being-to-human_being level. Get to know his/her hobbies and interests. Talk about the latest win for your favorite hockey team, or a vacation you want to take. Get to know him/her on a less formal level. NLP (Neuro Lingustic Programming) tells us that as humans we like people who are like us. We get along with them better, want to see them succeed more, and are willing to go up to bat for them more. Let me translate this: the more your boss connects and likes you the more likely he/she will be to foster a promotion for you. Use your Performance Appraisal and a ‘look forward’ document. Structure your comments and suggestions toward the promotion you seek. This is a great time to discuss your career goals with your manager.

Get and Be a Mentor

In a recent study four out of five people promoted had mentors. This is important at all levels, whether you are a manager, Director, VP or C level. Mentors guide you to the next step. They can help to pave the way to receiving that promotion. And they can spread the word about your successes in the organization. And face it, isn’t it nice to know someone has your back?

So you want to take this a step further? Why not set up a mentoring program in your organization if there isn’t one already? This heightens your visibility and supports most of the strategies in this article.

So you have a mentor, now it’s your turn to be the mentor. There is likely someone in your organization that would love to be mentored to the next level, i.e. a mentee. That person may have already approached you for guidance and suggestions. If not, identify a high potential employee and offer to mentor them. This can be as formal or informal as you like. You may suggest weekly or bi-weekly meetings to discuss their career goals, strengths and strategies. Listen and share stories of your successes. Help provide a road map for the mentee.

Quantify and Communicate Results

So you know you are doing well, but does your boss know it? The best way to let people know of your successes is to quantify them. How much did your last initiative save the company? Were you under budget this quarter? Was production up by some percent?

In my leadership courses I often refer to a ‘drop file’. This is a tool that allows you to keep track of your successes. It’s simple: every time you have a success or achievement, make a note of it either in an on line file or notebook. Notes can include cost savings, customer successes, new policies implemented, successful initiatives, problems solved, etc. The more it positively impacts the bottom line the more you can leverage those results. It shows loyalty and commitment. Those are very desirable qualities and get you one step closer to your promotion!

As you do this your awareness of the successes increases. The next step is to communicate these positive results. Make sure you boss knows of your successes. If you don’t already report up on your successes put a structure in place to communicate this. This can be weekly or monthly success reports.

It’s not just about letting your boss know; let influencers know too. They can be incredibly helpful champions in your cause!

Build your Network

The greater span of control the better in the networking world. Get o know people. Find out whop does what in other teams and divisions. Mine for best practices. Know who to go to when you need resources or answers or problem solving for issues your team or division. And as your network expands, so do your options for promotion. If something comes up of interest to you in another area or division your network can let you know or even better, submit your name for the coveted senior role.

Be Visible; Practice Self Promotion

If your boss doesn’t see what you are doing he/she wont be able to recognize or acknowledge it. Get out of your office and walk around. Talk to people. Find out what issues are facing your team at any level. Talk to the guy on the shop floor. Have coffee with the numbers guy. Let people see what you are about. Humbly let people know what your successes are and what initiatives you are working on. Ask lots of questions to engage people. Be the leader everyone wants to work for. Word travels fast. Use your network to feed the grapevine with positive talk about you.

Be a Positive Force, Zap Negativity

Negatively doesn’t win. Simple. People do not like to be with people who are not positive. It’s draining. And drainers don’t get promoted. A phrase I often use is ‘positive and future focused’. It’s a great remember to stay out of the negative and look toward the future. That mindset invites others to do the same. And positivity creates better results and better teams than negativity.

This holds true for conflict situations too. Disagreements turn into conflict when they are emotionally charged. This emotion is negativity. A battle of wills, head butting and grasping for control all lead you, the other person and likely others around you into a negative space. If something isn’t right choose an approach that is positive, corrective in nature and will yield the best positive outcome for you, the other person and ultimately your customer.

Embrace Change

You’ve heard the old adage: The only constant in work is change. It’s true! People come and go. Policies change. Client base evolves. Change is our constant. And if you think change has been at a fast pace… just wait… it’s getting faster. So embrace it. Welcome it. Be ahead of the curve. Be the initiator of positive change. What internal changes will benefit your customers? What initiatives can be made to decrease production errors? Get your name on these initiatives. Be the change the organization needs and wants. And then refer to #3.

Learn, Learn, Learn.

You may be an expert in your area, but what do you know beyond your own scope? Rule of thumb is to take at least one course per year and read one new book each quarter. How ya’ doing on that? If you are like most leaders, there is always great intention to read, but there never seems to be enough time. (For help with time challenges read the related article: The Executives Guide to Getting to Your Kids Hockey Games) [Insert link]

Keep current on news in your industry and beyond. Be an expert in your business. That makes your more marketable.

So why take the time to read? It keeps your current. It gives you something to talk to your boss about. It gives you good material to talk to your peers and champions about. It gets you seen at the well-rounded, smart leader.

Be Innovative, Problem Solve.

It’s very easy to find problems. It’s more difficult to be the problem solver. Presenting solutions to problems puts you in the positive space we talked about earlier. Remember…people like being with positive people. Problem solvers are creative, inquisitive, and yup…positive. A great combination for someone wanting to be recognized for a promotion. Get a reputation for being an innovator: find problems and create solutions. And bonus marks if you bring people in to help with the problem or implementation of the solution. This allows you to show your skills in teambuilding.

Be a Team Player.

The number one skill in creating success is to actively be part of a team. Be seen as a team player. You can direct and lead, but being seen as a part of a team will be what sets you apart.

Another part of being a team player is giving recognition when others have had successes. If your team has created success then acknowledge them directly and to others. Sharing success by default makes your successful. This builds your reputation and value to your organization.


So there you have it. Kick into action with these 5 strategies. Be clear on your intention. Hold that with steadfast belief. Focus, believe and implement. And then let me know when to celebrate your promotion!

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