Most of of us have likely experienced a time in our careers in which we did not receive a much desired and
anticipated promotion. Typically, we are left wondering why. Looking to the individual who did get promoted sometimes leaves us with more questions rather than the answers we seek. Over the course of my Coaching and Consulting career I have dealt with numerous highly talented individuals who have been seemingly left behind, yet again, without a clear direction for moving forward and gaining that coveted promotion.
In my experience, there are typically 5 main reasons why people fail to secure a promotion, each of which I share with you below in the hopes that you are able to see yourself in one (or more) and begin taking the steps necessary to eliminate this roadblock to your success.
1. Your focus is on your current Performance and not on your future Potential. Granted you want to be performing at your best, but that demonstrates you are capable of delivering at the level you are now. It is important to couple this with a demonstration of your ability to do more. And by more I mean 'other', not just simply more of what you are currently doing. You need to understand what competencies are required, by those succeeding at the next level, and find opportunities to display those abilities. People get promoted because of their perceived potential to take on more and greater responsibility. Showcase the breadth of skills you currently possess while highlighting your ability to 'learn' new ones.
2. No Bragging Campaign. Doing great work is one thing; ensuring that people know about it is another. You cannot simply put your head down, work harder than anyone else, and expect it to get noticed. Likely it will just get you more of the same work, not a promotion. You need to promote yourself to get promoted. I know that introverts reading this are cringing right now - or jumping to the next point - but becoming proficient at Bragging is a necessity in today's business world. People are far too busy to keep track of 'who' is doing what, they need reminding. This needn't be a big brash obnoxious recitation of your accomplishments. It can be small little tidbits, updates and reminders casually dropped into conversations. Crafting your campaign means that you are crafting the messages that others receive. By understanding what competencies are required at a higher level you can use your Brag Bite moments to highlight your skills in those areas, building the perception of potential they need to see.
3. Poor Internal Network. This point is linked to your Bragging Campaign, but it is an important element in and of itself. If you do not have a strong network, who do you have to brag to? You need to have your campaign reach as far and wide throughout the organization as you can. Therefore, you need a well developed sphere of influence, which includes those in decision-making roles. Who knows you? Who knows of you? What do they know? Getting your name onto the Succession Planning list means getting known by those managing the list. Extend your network to ensure that these people are included. If they don't know who you are, they aren't going to be in a position to add your name to the list.
4. Lack of Accountability. It all comes down to Reasons and Results. You can have reasons why you didn't accomplish something, why it wasn't your fault, why it was out of your control... or you can have results. Organizations tend to promote those who get things done, who make things happen. The more that you are able to demonstrate the tenacity and determination needed to move through obstacles, the more the organization will be willing to invest more in your future. Excuses and reasons don't cut it. They may sound reasonable but the bottom line is simply... you didn't add to the bottom line.
5. Lack of Initiative. If you see a problem, fix it. Find a solution. Don't leave it for someone else to find. Don't bemoan the extra work that it means for you. Don't walk away with your hands in the air claiming 'it's not my job'. If you want that promotion then you need to be prepared to demonstrate your commitment to the success in the organization, not just your commitment to your own. They should be linked. Taking initiative by stepping up to the plate and assuming responsibility for something outside of your direct 'job' demonstrates a willingness to take on new challenges. It shows a sense of ownership that is looked for in those moving up. Note also that every new initiative that you take on becomes one more brag-bite that you get to share, strengthening your campaign and message.
Promotions are not just 'givens'. Showing up at work and doing your job are not the sole prerequisites for moving up. You need to demonstrate your ability to take on more, to learn, to grow, to assume responsibility, to commit. Develop your promotional plan and then work it. If you want greater opportunities in the future then you need to be prepared to take actions beyond what you have done to get where you are. If you aren't prepared to do more, then you will be required to step aside for those that are.