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“Am I delivering results?”
The best predictor of future performance is past results. If you apply for a loan at a bank, they will check your credit history. When others lent you money, how did you perform? They do this for one reason. It is an accurate predictor of your willingness to make payments on the next loan.
Within an organization, you are interviewing for your next role every single day. If you have not delivered results in your current role, your manager would be reckless to offer you more responsibility. Companies look for candidates with a reliable track record of consistent performance who offer the best chance of generating a return on that position. If you can’t perform among the top 25% of your peers, you have no business asking for more responsibility.
Many people are not patient enough to earn the opportunity. According to a 2018 survey by the U.S. Department of Labor, Americans born in the early 1980s held an average of 7.8 jobs between the ages of 18 and 30. If you plan to move up in responsibility, staying with a company for 1.5 years on average won’t give you enough time to demonstrate your effectiveness.
“Do I demonstrate skills necessary at the next level?”
More responsibility in an organization often ties directly to more collaboration across the company. A startup’s top programmer can deliver sensational results in seclusion while the founder is in front of people all day long. Individual performers can often deliver results while working independently, but those same individuals struggle one level higher where communication becomes critical.
The skills needed to climb the ladder happen to be those most lacking in today’s economy, according to LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner. His company conducted a survey which found that the leading skill shortage in America is interpersonal communication. Leaders listen, network, partner, negotiate and persuade. They build coalitions within their business unit and across multiple functions.
Results will bring attention, but your behaviors are what managers are evaluating. If you want a promotion, start doing that job before you have the title. Be the person that your team comes to when your manager isn’t available. Volunteer to mentor and train new hires. Share your best practices. Put the team first, and soon they will see you as a natural successor to your manager.
“Have I clearly communicated my intent to move up?”
A 2014 study by Accenture found that 44% of respondents had asked for a promotion and 68% who had done so received one. More than two in three of those asking for increased responsibility were rewarded for their direct approach, but an astonishing 56% had not bothered to ask.
Companies typically have a short window to make a promotion decision. Several leaders discuss the pros and cons of current options and give heavy weight to those who have expressed interest. Managers are not interested in promoting individuals that seem comfortable. First, they don’t want to upset a good thing if someone is performing well. Second, managers don’t want to push someone into a role they might not be interested in.
You never know when your boss will need to answer these questions. When that time comes, they will inevitably think of their most recent career conversations with you. If your peers are eagerly pushing for a promotion and you are quietly hoping for the best, expect to be disappointed.
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