A few weeks ago, I published an article about Career Killers (How to Overcome the 5 Biggest Career Killers). A lot of readers reached out and commented on this post (thank you!). As a result, I thought it would be interesting to look at a more positive angle. Instead of what will kill your career, what would accelerate your career trajectory? In other words, what behaviors will help you get promoted?
Don’t you talk about getting promoted pretty much in every post, Mrs. Type A?
Well, I wouldn’t say every. However, yes, I’ve definitely addressed getting promoted (or not) at least tangentially in many other posts on this blog (see links to all at the bottom). Therefore, I thought it would be helpful to tie it all together and give concrete examples of how to display the behaviors required to get promoted.
Before jumping into my advice, I did some research to see what expert sources say (see Vault’s article for a good one). Most sources tell you what activities to do (i.e., offer to take on additional projects, ask for feedback, etc). I would agree with those recommendations. In this post, I will talk about how you behave when doing that work….essentially what “ways of being” are important (“vs doing).
Mrs. Type A’s 3 Behaviors that Will Ensure You Get Promoted
Behavior #1: Be solutions-oriented
There are a lot of challenges that can develop as a result of decisions or areas of the business that you do not control. However, you will not get ahead by pointing that out.
Therefore, you should always avoid saying these phrases:
- “It’s not my fault”
- “I didn’t make that decision”
- “I told them it wouldn’t work”
- “No one listened to me”
Could any of these statement be true?
Should you ever say it?
It won’t help the situation.
If bad things are happening at work (i.e., sales rapidly decreases, customer complaints), do you think your boss cares at that moment whose fault it is? No. I can guarantee you in that moment — having been a leader in the face of a scary business issue — I am not thinking about whose fault it is. Rather, I’m think a lot of 4-letter words and I’m freaking out and trying not to show it because I don’t want to freak others out.
In that moment, I want someone who will help me figure out what to do. If you use that moment to remind me that “it wasn’t your decision,” I’m not going to look favorably on you; in the end, I will likely see you as petty and unable to flex to the help. Frankly, I will think you are immature and incapable of prioritizing business issues over your own needs.
What should you do instead?
Help solve the issue. Doesn’t matter if it’s your fault, your decision, etc. This crisis you’re not responsible for is actually a gift; as a result, you will be able to demonstrate the ability to drive results by being solutions-oriented (vs. blaming).
How can I show I’m solutions-oriented?
That is a good question. Here are a couple scenarios that hopefully help illustrate how to productively clarify your role (or lack thereof) in a way that focuses on solutions.
Sales are down because a snow storm hinders the delivery of product on the East Coast. As a result, your boss calls you and wants to know why you’re missing your weekly sales target.
Do Not Say: “it’s not my fault, the distribution team wasn’t prepared.”
Suggested Solutions-oriented response: “While the distribution team will need to take point on resolving this, here are some of the ideas I will explore with them (share). In addition, I scheduled time this afternoon and will report progress back to you by end of day.”
If you said that to me in this crisis, I’d want to hug you!
You told your boss you didn’t think it was a good idea to launch into a new market. However, she decided to still launch. She left the company and now that market under-performs. On the first day on the job, your new boss asks you why this market does not meet targets.
Do Not Say: “it wasn’t my decision to enter in that market. I told my old boss not to do it.”
Suggested Solutions-oriented response: “It seems this market is not as lucrative as the assessment [Old Boss] conducted. However, here are 3 ideas we can implement to drive growth in this market” or “…additionally, here are 2 alternative markets we can explore.”
In summary, the truth is is that it doesn’t really matter what created the issues for the company. If you can help find a way out, you will be remembered. In addition, you will a solutions-oriented employee and able to focus on driving business results (more than promoting your own wishes). In the end, that is what companies want in leaders and, as a result, you will be promoted.
Behavior #2: Be Honest
Never lie. Period.
However, there is more to being honest than not lying. And that is being transparent.
What’s the difference between honesty and transparency?
To me, transparency means you are purposefully sharing information that may not otherwise get unsurfaced in an effort to be forthright (and avoid seemingly like your hiding something).
It’s clear that to be honest you need just not to lie….but..
How do you show transparency?
Here are some thoughts:
Someone asks you a question that you don’t know the answer to.
Do not Say: A made up answer
Suggested Transparent Response: “I don’t know off the top of my head, I will follow up.” OR “My gut says the answer is ABC and I’ll look into and let you know by tomorrow if that is incorrect”
You made an error on printed materials that were sent to customers. No one noticed it, and you think you can recall them all before anyone finds out.
Do not: Recall them and not tell anyone
Suggested Transparent Response: Recall them immediately. Then in a 1:1 with your boss say something like, “I wanted to let you know that I sent out erroneous materials last week. I identified it quickly, and recalled them. In addition, I followed up with any customer who may have received them to verbally confirm the right information. As of yet, we have no reported issues. Next time, I will implement a second review with Materials Approval Team to double check.”
Ok, so Scenario 2 isn’t hypothetical. This actually happened. To me. My first month at a new company.
I worried that this error would make me look bad and my boss would regret hiring me. However, when transparently discussed the situation, she recognized me for being brave enough to do the right thing. In the end, I think that left a lasting impression on my boss, who immediately started grooming me as her replacement.
Why is transparency important?
Your word is your reputation. Do Not Risk That.
Yes, there is the “if a tree falls” argument; if no one knows you made a mistake, does it matter?
Well, there are no guarantees no one will know. And when your boss finds out you knew and didn’t say something, that will be very, very bad.
Isn’t it risky to say you made a mistake?
Maybe. Honestly, I’ve never had an issue with a boss when I fessed up to something (as long as I say what I’m doing to fix it). And, as a boss, I’m honestly relieved when someone tells me so that I know first.
And, I recognize that person can do something uncomfortable and scary in order to do the right thing. That is a leader, and someone who I think deserves a promotion.
Behavior #3: Help people
A lot of people spend their time plotting against other people at work in order to get ahead. It amazes me, but I have had my own experiences with a backstabbing coworker.
Sure, making a co-worker look bad may momentarily boost your lot in life at your company. But it is a short-term game. If you burn bridges, your colleagues won’t help you and that can impact your performance.
Alternatively, if you proactively help and support your peers (and, in fact, just everyone), they will, in return, help you. They may help advocate for your promotion, give you favors in terms of more budget / faster results, or help prepare for an interview.
You have nothing to lose by being pleasant and helping others. More likely than not, doing so will help accelerate your career and you will obtain a promotion.
In conclusion, I hope this post gives some concrete steps to take that will help exhibit the behaviors that will help you get promoted. What do you think about these 3 behaviors? What helped you obtain a promotion?
Here are some links to related articles:
- How to prepare for an interview for a management position
- 3 Tips for New Managers (and 3 Mistakes to Avoid)
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