The politics of promotion

When a client of mine was promoted, he received a greeting card. “Congratulations on your promotion”; the message inside read: “Now watch your back.” He laughed at the joke, but he knew there was more than a grain of truth in that.

It takes more than great performance and skill to get ahead. Being politically savvy (while keeping your integrity) will help you to maximise on the success in your seat.

Navigating politics wears people out - and it doesn't have to. Politics is really about human nature and the goal isn’t mastering internal politics as much as minimizing them by forming authentic relationships. Establish a real curiosity about people and what makes them tick. Create win-win situations. This way you won't need to watch your back at all times!

Rather than resenting the political nature of organizations, focus on understanding what kind of environment you are in. Is your company minimally, moderately or highly politicized? It should never be a mystery to you what it takes to get the promotion.

1. What are the written (and unwritten) rules around what gets people promoted? The corporate culture speaks louder than words. Look at how is the decision being made. Is it “longevity”, experience, or a proven track record?

2. Who has power and influence, and more importantly, what’s your relationship with them? Mapping out your stakeholders and making sure you are strategic about those relationships will serve you well. Do your trusted advisors think you are ready? Are they clear on your desire to be promoted?

3. Are you on a fast-growing team or one that is shrinking? At times promotions have less to do with any individual and more to do with business priorities.

4. Solicit regular feedback from a variety of sponsors, mentors, and team members who can spotlight your areas of development. We all have them! It will also help you to identify opportunities and avoid potential landmines.

5. Invest in your communication skills. As you progress, these skills increasingly go under a microscope as they are now going to impact a lot of people and make or break the success of the organization, especially in the volatile world we live in.

6. Situational leadership is the key to success. The top employees know how to navigate between being conciliatory in one meeting and more aggressive in the next. Those are the ones who thrive.

What do you do when you find yourself hitting a glass ceiling? You’ve invested time and energy, and yet you’ve remained where you are while others have sailed past you? There comes a time when you may want to explore other opportunities and remind yourself that your job, while strategically important, is not your career.


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