My simple question manifested a shocked and confused expression from my client. I won’t quote the response but here are some of the common reactions I get to this question.

  1. But they’re the ones doing the promoting, what am I supposed to do?
  2. Yes of course I have, I’ve been with the company for two years and haven’t got a promotion, so it’s the right time.
  3. Why wouldn’t it be easy to promote me?
  4. Look at all the projects I’ve completed for them. This is a no-brainer for them.

I have all sorts of responses to why answers 1, 2 and 4 need further discussion. Today I want to focus on number 3 – Why wouldn’t it be easy to promote me? I also want to focus on what YOU can control, not external factors (budgets, promotion schedules, etc.). Why? Because so often we look at a promotion solely as the manager’s responsibility and strictly in the manager’s control. Guess what, like everything in your career journey, it’s not.

So let’s talk about number 3 and why it might be hard. Remember, these are situations that might need to be resolved above and beyond the financial and timing issues. And these situations all start with other people. Because, as you well know, every decision made about you and your opportunities is made in a room you’re not in. What we need to remember is the room isn’t just your boss. Are you thinking about everyone else?

Have you made it easy for your manager to explain to their manager why you should be promoted? Yes, your manager should already know the answer to this question but put yourself in their situation. Think about who they’ll need to speak with to get the promotion approved. Remember, it’s not always just their boss.

Have you thought about your peers? I have no doubt the people in your group/team believe you are awesome and should totally get a promotion. Have you thought about cross-functional peers? Are they enthusiastic about your role change? Would your title or position change impact other parts of the larger company? Depending on the change it might well. Think about the larger organization and how you interact cross-functionally. Is your manager aware of your relationships and interactions across the company?

Last but certainly not least, have you thought about the team? This is especially important if you’re moving into a management role. Are the people you’re going to manage as enthusiastic about your promotion as you are? Think about what you look for in a manager? What kind of things do you expect leadership to do for you? Are you doing the same for others even without the title?

In each of these examples, there isn’t a simple answer of “do this” or “do that”, there’s no specific checklist. Making something easy for someone else, I hope you’re beginning to understand, is about thinking about the other person. Put yourself in their shoes. What problems might they need to solve to greenlight your awesome? Do you have Organizational Empathy?

I share these ideas because I’ve made mistakes both as a manager promoting someone and in my desires to get promoted. I didn’t always think beyond what I wanted. Every time I didn’t have organizational empathy it backfired. These are mistakes that still bother me to this day which is why I’m sharing these ideas with you.

So yes, while it’s about you, it’s not about you.

Something to think about, right?

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