Ready for a Promotion?


Promotions Can be Stressful

Promotions Can be Stressful Last year, researchers at the University of Warwick found that the mental health of managers typically deteriorates after a job promotion.  Part of this anxiety is attributable to,

  1. the loss of the security of a familiar role and the established relationships around the role,
  2. perceived cognitive inadequacies concerning demands of the new position, and,
  3. the uncertainty of transition and the innate human resistance to change.

The greater part of this anxiety is a common career mistake. Often, professionals take up new responsibilities for which they are not entirely prepared. Even when management judged them as qualified for the new role, without thinking through a new role before accepting the promotion, these professionals unintentionally position themselves for stressful transitions, bitterness, or eventual failure.

When Is It Time to Move On?

Do not assume that you are ready for a promotion just because you possess the right academic background, you look the part, you have the right contacts within the company, or, you have impressed your management with your capability to develop a few good ideas and articulate them well.

Here are a few questions to reflect on and assess your chance of a successful promotion or a horizontal transition.

  • Are you enthusiastic about taking on a new role? Does the new role fit into your medium- and long-term career plans?
  • Have you been performing your present duties well enough to justify a promotion?
  • Do you have a successor in mind for your current role? Have you made yourself replaceable? Are you willing to entrust your current responsibilities to a successor without a significant interruption in pace of work?
  • Ready for Promotion When Is It Time to Move On Are you qualified or experienced enough to do no less than, say, 40% of the new role reasonably well?
  • Have you demonstrated eagerness to gain knowledge of the new responsibilities?
  • Are you familiar with the responsibilities, autonomy, challenges, opportunities, and deliverables of the new role? Do you know how to get things done in the new role? Do you know where to get help?
  • Are you proficient with the communication, networking and interpersonal skills needed to make it in the new role? Will you get along with your peers, subordinates, and management at the new role?
  • Are you at ease with the demands on the new role: time, travel, pressures, and challenges? Can your family (or other aspects of your personal life) support this transition?
  • Can you swallow your pride if you are rejected for the new role? Are you ready to seek honest feedback about how management values you, listen, and make yourself more promotable in the future?

The more questions you answer with a “Yes” to, the better your chances for a successful promotion. Reflect on the questions you answer with a “No” to. Create a growth plan, improve your professional profile, and, ask for feedback from management on what you can do deserve a promotion.

Be Proactive and Seek Feedback from Your Manager

Seeking Proactive Feedback from Your Manager

Feedback is a critical component of our work. We need to understand whether our performance aligns with what is expected of us. We need to know what we are doing well, what we need to change and how we could improve. We need help to discover opportunities to advance our careers.

One of the common grievances of professionals is that their managers rarely give them adequate feedback. These feelings are not totally unfounded. Managers tend to be busy and deliver feedback only during cursory performance reviews. And, instinctively, managers fear confrontation: they assume that their employees may respond to even the slightest criticism with anger, defensiveness and alienation. Employees, for their part, resent feedback because they dislike being criticized.

This article suggests what you can do to effectively secure feedback from your manager. I have shared this process with several professionals who have successfully adopted it to further develop relationships with their managers.

Soliciting Feedback

  • Set up regular meetings with your manager to seek feedback. Do not wait for the quarterly or annual performance reviews to solicit it.
  • Prepare and send an agenda to your manager at least one day prior to your meeting. Use the questions in the following section to guide your discussions and agenda. Tailor the questions to suit your unique projects and goals. Cover all the broader, important topics on a regular basis.
  • Assure your manager that her opinions and suggestions matter and that you will listen to and act on them. You need not necessarily agree with every assessment, but remain open—do not grow defensive or angry. If you must disagree, do so politely. Offer your opinions using phrases such as “Could it be because …,” “how about …,” or “perhaps, another way to look at this is ….”
  • Ask for specific examples. Take down notes. Conclude the meeting by thanking your manager. Affirm that you will develop and share with her a plan of action.
  • Review your notes from the meeting. Look for patterns in her comments and suggestions. In a day or two, follow up with your action plan.

Ten Topics to Ask to Solicit Feedback from Your Manager

Ten Questions to Ask to Solicit Feedback from Your Manager

  • “How am I doing on project or goal X? What can I do differently to be more effective?
  • “My most important projects or goals are X, Y and Z. Do you think I have the priorities right?
  • “Am I meeting your expectations in keeping you updated on my progress / project X? How can I organize information better to help you understand my projects and our achievements?
  • “What goals do you see for me on project X (or over the next N months?) How will you measure me against these goals?
  • “What strengths do I bring to your team? What personal skills will enable me to grow and contribute better?
  • “How do you see my career developing in this organization over the long-term? What suggestions do you have to prepare me for such opportunities?
  • “What steps do you suggest I take to broaden my exposure to our functional area and build my skills? What specific steps can I take to widen my perspective in our functional area? What key challenges will I face?
  • “What can I do to expand my role? May I assume any additional responsibilities?
  • “What are your goals for the immediate future? What are your team’s most important projects and initiatives? How can I best support your goals?
  • “How do you think our organization and customers will change in the future? What opportunities do you see? What challenges will we face? How will our roles evolve? How can we prepare? What is our management’s perspective on the future?”

Concluding Thoughts

This article suggests an informal and practical process to solicit feedback from your manager. By exercising initiative, asking the right questions and proactively soliciting feedback, you can recognize and adapt to your manager’s and the organization’s expectations of you and discover prospects for larger responsibilities and promotions.

Your manager will appreciate your eagerness to openly communicate, improve, adapt, and contribute further. She will be more forthcoming in her assessment of your work and more likely to offer suggestions for improvement.

By understanding your manager’s expectations and priorities, you can secure the support and resources you need to achieve your goals. Keeping your manager informed helps foster dependability and build a stronger, mutually beneficial working relationship that helps you, your manager and the organization.

Never Surprise Your Boss [Managing Your Boss #2]

Managing your boss: never surprise your boss

Bosses Dislike Surprises–Positive or Negative

The world of work is awash with relentless changes, troubles and crises. In the midst of these uncertainties, your boss does not need surprises from you or any of her employees.

Bear in mind that your boss’s output is the aggregate of the outputs of all the members of her organization. She must be in complete control of her goals and be able to answer her boss’s questions about the status of her organization’s projects and progress made on the latest crises. Consequently, she does not expect to be blindsided by good or bad news on your projects. She needs to know the status of each of your significant projects, and the challenges and opportunities therein.

Keep Your Boss in Line

Never surprise your boss: Keep your boss in line A surprise is simply the difference between a previously-identified goal of a project and its apparent result. Give your boss a heads-up: have a conversation with her about forthcoming opportunities or mounting problems as soon as you perceive these variations in the output of your work.

Suit your boss’s preferred style of communication. If she is organized and detail-oriented, she may prefer comprehensive written reports itemizing the status of your projects, financial expenditures, and, performance against set goals and budgets. In contrast, if she is informal and perceptive, she may just need you to summarize the status of your projects in an email each week.

Pre-wire Your Boss Prior to Meetings

In meetings that include your boss, her boss, peers or customers, never introduce a contentious topic or discuss positive or negative details of your project without preparing your boss ahead of the meeting.

Make it a habit to meet with you boss prior to such meetings, show her drafts of your presentations and seek her comments and inputs. By ‘pre-wiring,’ or, discussing your findings and recommendations with key decision-makers ahead of a group presentation, you ensure their support for your conclusions and avoid surprise reactions or disagreements. See my earlier ‘Ideas for Impact’article for details on the technique of pre-wiring.

Be the First to Let Your Boss Know

As a rule of thumb, your boss should first learn about any surprise from you–not from her peer, her boss, customer or consultant. Recognize that, occasionally, you may not have discussed certain facts or figures with your boss solely because these details appeared irrelevant or unimportant to you. However, others may be experienced enough to foresee the consequences and, much to your chagrin, bring up the details with your boss. If your boss asks, “Carrie from accounting told me … why you didn’t tell me that?” acknowledge that you did not foresee the consequences. Learn from your lapses and discover how you could read such trends.

Managing your boss: Clarify mutual expectations early and often

Clarify Mutual Expectations Early and Often

If you see a need to reassess your goals and priorities on a project, bring it to the attention of your boss. Involve her in evaluating the challenges so that she feels just as accountable in redefining your common goals and priorities. Be prepared to clarify your thoughts and offer alternative solutions.

Realize that It’s a Matter of Trust

The relationship between you and your boss is a sensitive one–one that hinges on mutual cooperation, credibility and trust. Trust is a virtue that depends on the predictability of your behavior, honesty and dependability. If you surprise the boss repeatedly without forewarning, she may begin to mistrust you.

Concluding Thoughts

Your boss is important to you because she is the primary source of approval of your work. And, the relationship with your boss is a critical aspect of a favorable work atmosphere and your job satisfaction.

Success in building a relationship with your boss does not come easily. It begins with recognizing that this relationship hinges on open communication, cooperation, and credibility. The onus is on you to effectively manage this key relationship and achieve the best results for yourself, your boss and the organization.

Never keep your boss in the dark.

Four Keys to an Excellent Relationship with Your Boss [Managing Your Boss #1]

Do you like your boss?The relationship with your boss is a critical aspect of a favorable work atmosphere and your job satisfaction. The boss forms a vital link between you and the upper management and thus represents the entire organization to you. Below are four key principles to build and sustain an excellent relationship with your boss.

  1. The relationship between you and your boss is likely a circular relationship: if you like your boss, your boss likes you; if your boss likes you, you like your boss. The circular relationship between you and your bossOverlook actions of your boss that may disappoint you and be conscious of how you react to conflicts.
  2. Suit his/her work style. Understand your boss’s thought processes, preferences and pet-peeves. If your boss is hands-on, favors raw data for making decisions, resists confrontations or avoids risk, you must be sensitive and suit his/her style. You may be able to sell your boss on the merits of changes to his/her style; however, realize that change takes time and is not guaranteed.
  3. When your boss succeeds, you succeed. Understand your boss’s role, his/her strengths, weaknesses and goals. Ask how you can support his/her objectives and the organization’s goals. Do not assume his/her expectations of you. Communicate continually by detailing progress on your assignments and by giving prompt feedback on challenges you face and asking for support.
  4. Realize that one hand cannot clap. Fundamentally, people are different; their perspectives and work-styles are different. You are very lucky if you have a boss who is competent and supportive—somebody who is genuinely interested in your assignments and career advancement. Recognize early if things are not going well; be open and straight-forward in communicating your thoughts and if changes you made have not improved the situation appreciably, be prepared to leave.

Success in building relationships does not come easily. Co-operating with your boss involves being proactive and tolerant, making mistakes and learning from them. The onus is on you to effectively manage this key relationship and achieve the best results for yourself, your boss and the organization.