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PMArticle - Secrets to Accelerating Your Executive Promotion!

-Dilip Saraf

We judge ourselves by what we are capable of doing; others judge us by what we have already done!—Ralph Waldo Emerson

One of the reasons clients come to me for career advice and coaching is when they feel stuck in their current role and see no direct path to next promotion, even though it is palpable to them. They see what their boss does and say, “I can do a better job than that; why am I not getting promoted?”

There are various problems with this mindset: For one, although necessary, merely performing well in the current role is just not sufficient. The higher one goes, in a pyramid structure, fewer are the positions; with flatter organizations, making a case for a higher title, is increasingly challenging.

In the early stages of one's career, promotions are relatively easy and are more performance based. As one secures higher positions other factors take more importance; If you judge what your boss is doing as something within your reach and capabilities, then you are merely looking at the tip of an iceberg; there is much more to what your boss does that you do not or cannot see!

Often, too, those seeking executive promotion ask their superiors what it takes to move to the next level. Some carefully respond with a specific plan of action and promise their subordinate the possibility of a promotion when they meet those objectives. In many such instances, when the role involves higher-level management titles-Director and above-these objectives become moving targets, frustrating many wannabes to start looking for options outside. This strategy also has its limitations, leaving these goals illusory for many.

Here is my secret list to securing your next level promotion:

• Once you cross the Director-level promotion (and in many cases even to the Director-level role) the rules change and not all are made known. There are hidden requirements that may prevent them from ever crossing that Rubicon. Remember the iceberg?

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• So, when you feel ready to throw your hat into the ring for your next promotion, first have an exploratory discussion with your immediate boss and get their assessment of your readiness for that promotion. Responsible executives are not usually forthcoming about all aspects of your “performance” that pushes you to the promotion you are seeking. In my own corporate career, I found this to be true; I had to go and suss out those expectations on my own. So, here you must observe those who already play in those circles and make an inventory of gaps that you must address in addition to what your own boss told you in your discussion. Here is a list some of those “secrets.”

• Be more visible in the circles of influence within your company. Get an opportunity to make a presentation to the C-level execs during a marquee event. Make sure you understand the gravity of such opportunities and get ALL the help you can to ace this chance given all constraints.

• If your boss is not willing or ready to put you in front of the C-levels for some “air time,” there are other ways to make yourself more visible at those levels. In the order of increasing difficulty and importance these avenues are:

- Responding to an internal email/memo circulating among these players and breaking in with your own perspective on how you can further the reach of what is presented in that memo;

- Writing a white paper on a topic that is a “burning platform” for the company and getting comments on it from those in the C-suite;

- Volunteering and contributing for a task that has high visibility and impact on your company's priorities.

A few creative ways to augment this list.

• One of the key factors in being seen as someone ready for your next executive promotion is to 'role play' that role. For this to work effectively you must first master the behaviors of those who are effective in such roles; practicing their behaviors even before you are promoted can be a catalyst in accelerating your timeline. One of the barriers to being considered as a candidate ready for promotion to that circle is the concern of those if they can see you as “one of them.” So, by embracing the overt behaviors of those in that club you have made that barrier less of a concern for them.

• The next focus areas are Executive Presence, Communication, and Influence. These can be mastered with awareness, practice, and diligence.

• As one seeks higher-level promotions in the executive ranks Emotional Intelligence (EQ) becomes a major factor. EQ has five components: Self Awareness, Self Control, Motivation, Empathy, and Communication. Again, each of these factors can be a learned skill. When it comes to Communication one of the key factors is your ability to present your thoughts in a concise and compelling language. Executives speak (and write) differently from everyday folks and learning how to master that skill requires effort. So, focusing on EQ and learning how to project your presence are some of the major areas of focus when you are seeking an executive promotion.

So, if this list of recommendations in this article appears daunting to you, understand what goes into such a promotion and be willing to work on these suggestions. Your efforts will be worth your while.

Good luck!

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