Do you feel like you should have been promoted by now? It hasn’t happened, but no one is telling you why? Perhaps this major promotion killer is holding you back.
A while back I was retained by a client who was recently passed over for a promotion. He told me that it had appeared “obvious” that he was going to be moved up to replace his boss who had left the company for a bigger job elsewhere. He’d gone through the usual discussions with those individuals involved in the decision, including the person who would be the direct boss of the new role, the CEO, and a couple of people who were peers to the role his boss had held. He felt he’d done well and made a solid case for being promoted. And then…
The HR head told him that, “just to be fair,” they intended to interview some outside candidates. He was told that he shouldn’t be concerned because everyone liked him and thought he could probably do the job. So he calmed down and waited.
Two months later they hired a woman (from another industry) to be his boss. When the new boss started, my client asked her what happened. She told him that she’d been told that while the CEO and others agreed my client would be a good fit, they also thought he needed a little “seasoning” before the next step up the ladder. My client now feels anger toward his new boss and is looking outside of the company to move forward elsewhere.
During the time since, we’ve uncovered a critical issue affecting his move up on the ladder. This issue’s pretty common with experts in many fields. It’s likely that some of you reading this may be facing similar hassles without knowing it. If you’re intelligent but don’t seem to win inter-office debates or arguments as often as you should, give this some consideration. It affects a lot of people who have tracked quickly into the early levels of senior management but then stalled.
In my experience; usually what got them promoted earlier was their technical expertise and/or understanding of things which were beyond the grasp of others. They were recognized as having insight or skills which warranted promotion and recognition from lower levels.
But at some point, they (or let’s say, you) need to adapt and move away from being regarded as “the” expert to one who is able to help others to become experts as well. If you don’t, you’ll get pigeonholed. The company bosses will be concerned about taking you out of such an important role with no one else able to fill it afterward. You’ll be held back because you’re too good at what you do. So start developing your replacement and make a point of showcasing him/her whenever you can. Let everyone see that you can move up with little disruption. And it shows that you good at developing others to move up as well. Bosses like that in an executive.
Additionally, it’s important that you learn to change your communication style and method. What works for the techies and insiders may serve to confuse, or worse, concern the company leaders when they can’t understand you. In my client’s case, he was able to explain things very clearly to his team because he talked their lingo. But when called on to update senior management, he wasn’t successful. He seemed too technical and unable to make his points. That made him talk more. Eyes glazed over. Text messages were sent about the “geek” who lived in his own world and didn’t understand the big picture issues surrounding the company. He was regarded as a showoff. Worse, he was destined to stay at lower levels because he didn’t know how to keep it short and sweet. He lost his audience. He was seen as someone with no vision, unable to get others enthusiastic about his projects. Never good for someone with career ambitions.
Bottom line: To move up the ladder, you need to be able to rally people behind your vision and state your case crisply. This applies to those below you and those above you. And the ones above you are the decision makers. If you really want that promotion, learn to match your communication style to that of the decision makers. Trying to show them “a better style” will only result in frustration.