Four tips to improve your career track

John M McKee, executive leadership coach with, provides tips to improve your business and career success. Leaders often neglect monitoring their own performance, resulting in a bad outcome.

Is it time to start looking elsewhere?

Career-wise, many execs don't do as well as they could if they'd learn to read the tea leaves. I've seen this from two perspective:

First, as an executive coach. I'm usually retained by either a company or an individual. Regardless of how I come into the equation, it's important that I have information about the client from as many sources as exist. Otherwise, the only information I have about the person and his environment may be too limited in dimension. More input = more rounded perspective.

Second, as a former company leader. When I was at DIRECTV we acquired a competitor that was larger than we were, Primestar Satellite. I was sent in to manage that company. As boss, I faced a lot of difficult decisions about the senior executive leaders. Who to keep? Who could grow with the company? Who to let go? How to tell? I used outsiders in several cases to get input.

As a result of seeing things from two very different points of view, I've learned that there are a few telltale signs that everyone should be aware of when planning their career's future. Those who know what to look for are usually more likely to grow with a company, or jump to new jobs at a higher level. Those who don't, usually end up disappointed, disillusioned, and disagreeable.

If you're wondering about your own situation, noodle on these ideas:

1. Anyone who is serious about their career, and wants to make the best of it, should give themselves an objective review of their own progress about every two years. Be dispassionate in this review. Don't allow yourself to "justify" why things haven't gone as they might, just reflect on how your career trajectory has been over the last two years.

Now notice if anyone else has moved ahead more quickly during this time. Regardless of why; have others stepped into the next level, or earned another stripe, while you're still doing the same thing?

2. Are you well known by all those who would be involved in any potential promotion? While it's important to have your immediate supervisor telling you how valuable you are, if her boss or the next one up the ladder doesn't know you from the guy down the hall, it's less likely that you'll be the first person who comes to mind when a promotion opens up. Same holds true if the head of HR doesn't know your name and face. Anyone who is going to have input on your career path should know who you are.

When these people feel they "know you" and "trust you" it makes it easier for them to move you up the ladder.

I recognize that this is tough in companies where people rarely have face time with the decision-makers. You have to make extra effort to become a known entity. That may involve less formal methods of communication or other approaches.

3. Recognize that some signals may mislead you into thinking that things are better than they are. A client of mine is well regarded at the company she works. A vice president, she gets good reviews, is known by all the important people in the C-Suite / Exec Suite, and has nice bonuses each year. But, others around her move forward, and new execs have been hired at levels above hers while she never gets a promotion.

Is someone intentionally misleading her? I doubt it. People are probably telling her what they honestly believe. But just because someone is considered good at their job, it doesn't mean a promotion is coming along. Sometimes, executives and managers are considered "invaluable" at their job and they get positive strokes to keep them happy where they are.

4. Drop into the job market at least one time per year. Many people "fail" their way to success - they don't do a great job at one company but keep jumping ship for a promotion elsewhere. Others, not bothering to see what's available elsewhere, often miss opportunities with which they may have been especially pleased.

Keep your interviewing skills honed and know your value outside of the company. Get some communication going with a couple of headhunters in your arena and location.

If you keep getting passed over, it will be a lot easier to move on when the time comes if you keep this list handy.


Leadership Coach


John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...

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