Gbenga Rufai, Aug 2020
Let’s face it, who doesn’t like to be promoted? A corner office, some added benefits (financial & non-financial), new and prestigious designation and everything in between. While most likely everyone loves it, many do not like the added responsibilities and challenges that comes with it but that would be a story for another day. Today, the focus is on what habits are easily observable with those that get promoted. In order not to bore you with a long psychological definition, I would simply define Habits as those things you consistently do that becomes part of you. Most likely things you do on a daily or very regular basis that can be easily attributable to your person. Got it?
Before jumping in, I have a few caveats to share. First is that the reason(s) for promoting a candidate over the other is beyond just the performance metrics on the technical bits of their job. It’s deeper than that and most times not obvious at certain levels within an organization. In fact, the reasons rest on what people call soft issues but in my experience can be very hard. Secondly, the habits I discuss below are based on ‘all things being equal’ (though most things are not). By that I mean an organization with an equitable culture, clear metrics, performance expectations and the likes. Last one would be that some cases simply defy logic and rule in the play book.
Having spent about 15 years in the workplace with a good amount of time managing employees including reviewing promotion lists, I consider this as the top 5. Let’s dig in.
They operate at a level higher than their Job description/Paygrade
Most people run away from more work yet they desire to get promoted. In my time speaking with professionals, I have had to ask this question ‘if I get to do all my tasks as stipulated in my job description, do I deserve a promotion?’ many answer in the affirmative but nothing is father from the truth. What you deserve is your pay check! One of the things that qualifies you for promotion is operating at a higher level beyond your current pay grade. Those who get promoted have developed a habit of taking on more responsibility. A simple hack, do not wait for your manager to ask, be proactive and ask to do more.
They have strong interpersonal skills/EQ
Those who get promoted have developed the ability to relate and interact with people that are either like themselves and those that are ‘different’ from them. They have honed the habit of engaging in conversations, negotiating with others, tactfully handling conflicts, communicating and not letting their emotions get in the way during heated arguments. Research has proven it over and over again, Emotional Intelligence plays a strong role in the story of high fliers. You do not want to be known as the brilliant but grumpy staff who cares only about themselves. Learn the art of relating with others, be approachable, check in on others, chat a little over lunch and commend their work. The higher you go, the more people you would have to relate with so start today. The good thing about building this habit is that it is easily noticeable in your relations with superiors, peers and subordinates. Finally, it helps you gain access to influential mentors/sponsors.
They practice strategic visibility
I know a good number of brilliant minds who are dedicated and do a good job too but hardly get noticed. They have unconsciously sabotaged themselves by what is termed ‘winking in the dark’. You might be good at your job but if decision makers are not aware that you are good at it then your growth will be stunted. Think of it, no one buys a product they are not aware of. Why do you think already established brands still pour in more funds into advertising? I have heard people say well, my work should speak for me but fail to remember that it should first be known to exist. Be proud of your work, talk about it without being arrogant. Can I let you in on 1 big secret of high fliers in the workplace? Once a year, they take on at least one major project that will give them the most visibility and at the same time deliver company or division wide impact. Try this time tested strategy and thank me later.
They make valuable contributions before key stakeholders
Everyone gets what I call a defining moment. Those who get promoted at work have a habit of identifying such moments and not letting it go to waste. Among many, one of such is making valid contributions before key stakeholders. Most brilliant people take this for granted. They get invited to key meetings or find themselves in conversation with key stakeholders and when called upon for comments, timidity sets in and they go mum. Sometimes, inferiority complex make many doubt the brilliance of their thoughts. Next time, before going in for such meetings, be armed with suggestions and questions to strengthen the conversation. When the spotlight is on you then it’s time to bless them with your genius.
They show Leadership, Innovation & Confidence
Taking ownership, responsibility and influence are the hallmarks of leadership. However, what makes leadership highly noticeable and desired is the ability of the leader to innovate and display confidence even in the face of visible obstacles. Like other habits, this can be developed. No longer want to get passed by for promotions? Remember to develop a track record for consistently showing innovation. But the ideas I suggested was not adopted what do I do? Never mind, not all ideas are adopted in the immediate, sometimes the organization or department is not ready for it. However, you are gradually developing a reputation as a solutions bank. If you do it long enough, it becomes your brand and no one wants to lose such an employee. Develop the habit of suggesting ideas for improvement, beyond the issue you are trying to solve, you are displaying an ability for critical and independent thinking. Just ensure that such moments are well documented and you never can tell who is watching. Be bold, be ready, and show courage to take on challenges even when you don’t feel ready. The way we feel is not always a good judge of our abilities.
So tell me, which of these habits do you feel has supported your career growth or robbed you of opportunities?
To your success