“Leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better.” – Bill Bradley
You come into work one hour early and you leave two hours late. You handle your day-to-day duties like a well-oiled machine, expeditiously knocking out tasks like Mike Tyson (early career, of course). On top of that, you accept every special project the boss farms out, and you nail it. You’re a sure bet for that promotion now, right? Don’t kid yourself.
It usually takes more than “keeping your nose to the grindstone” to move up in the corporate world. Success in the workplace (and anywhere in life) is all about the intangibles.
Network – The farther up the career ladder you go, the more important this skill becomes. As such, you may as well start sharpening them now. Networking is not only the most effective way to search for employment, it is also the best way to develop solid foundational relationships with people who can help you move up the chain of command. The best way begin such a relationship is to offer value to someone with no expectation of an immediately returned favor. But be careful to begin building this goodwill well before you are actively looking for a helping hand. This way, you don’t come across as a user. What goes around does come around, but it is better for it to travel a longer distance before it does.
Establishing relationships in social settings are a great way to personalize your network. When invited to happy hour on Friday, make it a point to go if the right contacts are also going to be present. You want to be sure to do more listening than talking at the start. Get a feel for the type of group you are out with, as well as the networking target’s role in the group. Is the conversation light or topical and controversial? Feel your way though the communications maze to ensure a smooth transition to linking up with your target networking contacts.
Make a Decision – It is usually the nature of most people to let someone else make big decisions for fear of the consequences if things do not go as planned. If this is you, then that has to change NOW! The farther up the ladder you go, the bigger the decisions will be. If you are afraid to make them now as a member of four-person project team, how can you possibly make them as a manager of 5 different project teams?
Every chance you get, take the lead on projects and team-structured duties. Put your personal stamp on things and tactfully make certain that the right people know about it. Don’t worry; most of the people you are working will gladly let you do so. They’ll want no part of explaining why something was done, or why a decision was made. As long as your actions match up properly with the project purpose and the department/company mission, you can defend it.
ASK FOR IT – Whether there is a live opening up for grabs or nothing on the immediate horizon, your management team should be made aware of your desire to move up the chain of command and accept responsibility. Throw your hat in the ring and don’t sit back waiting for someone to recognize you as a legitimate candidate. Overseeing your career growth is usually not very high on your management team’s “To-Do” list. This is in every way your responsibility.
Ask you management team what it will take for you to move up. Is there additional training that they feel you need? Do they feel you are not showing enough initiative? Get the information straight from the source and leave nothing to chance.
When you seek a promotion, you are seeking addition leadership and responsibility and this means additional risk. You have to be ready to deal with decisions that don’t pan out. Remember – you can’t steal second base if your foot is still on first.