This holiday season caps off a difficult year for managers: With promotions scarce, many feel their careers are stalled. Aspiring executives who wish to be first off the bench for executive promotions in 2011 should consider how to address four key questions, according to John Beeson, author of "The Unwritten Rules: The Six Steps You Need to Get Promoted to the Executive Level" (Jossey-Bass, 2010).
"It's unlikely that the winners will be those aspiring executives who simply focus on producing strong results in their current jobs. The people who will succeed at launching themselves toward the C-suite will look to tease out deeper feedback from their managers and learn which skills and talents they need to demonstrate to those who make promotional decisions in their organizations," said Mr. Beeson,
a succession planning and organizational development expert and Principal of Beeson Consulting
"Spending time addressing a few hard, big-picture questions can help you leapfrog to the next level. And the holiday season is a perfect time to begin pondering and planning how to act on them," said Mr. Beeson. The four key questions are:
1. What criteria do senior-level decision makers in your organization use in making promotion decisions?
"Even in performance reviews, most organizations fail to provide adequate feedback to aspiring executives about what they need to do to get to a higher level. You need to find ways to extract the 'feedback that really counts': where you stand in terms of the criteria that senior-level decision makers use to make promotion choices," said Mr. Beeson. "Once you have uncovered this information, then the hard part begins -- finding ways to develop and demonstrate these skills to senior management."
In other words, aspiring executives must get to the bottom of how they are viewed by those people responsible for promotions to the executive level. What strengths or weaknesses have these decision makers seen? What skills and capabilities do they need to develop and display to put themselves in a position for advancement?
- Action Item: Start the new year by setting up a series of career conversations with your supervisor and other senior managers to get a true sense of their promotion criteria as well as the things you need to display to breed confidence in your ability to succeed at higher levels.
2. Can you, in your current job, demonstrate the required skills and capabilities for a next-level job -- or do you need to move to a new assignment in order to do so?
"Not all positions -- perhaps not the one you have now -- allow you to demonstrate the skills and capabilities you need to move up; for example, the ability to create a strategy for your organization or lead change," said Mr. Beeson.
Consider whether your current job does allow you to demonstrate the skills and capabilities needed for a job at the next level. If it does, what steps can you initiate to display them to more senior people? If not, how can you orchestrate a move to another job that does?
- Action Item: Look for activities in your current job, or in another position within the company, that allow you to demonstrate the skills needed for advancement. For example, take advantage of opportunities to lead a cross-functional team in order demonstrate your ability to work with others to get things done across organizational lines. If a new job assignment is required to expand your perspective or knowledge of how the organization works, let your interests be known to your boss and others who can help make your desired job move happen.
3. Are you projecting yourself as someone who can be successful leading at a higher organizational level?
"People with very different personalities and styles can project executive presence even though their personal 'packages' may be very different," said Mr. Beeson. "Most importantly, one needs to be viewed as someone who can 'play' at the more senior level, that is, to step up and address the difficult situations and decisions that go with the territory at more senior levels."
- Action Item: Take steps to get feedback on your executive presence: Beyond dress, assess your ability to project self-confidence and deal with difficult situations. Also, review your comfort and effectiveness in public speaking and presentation situations, because they are important indicators of executive presence in most organizations.
4. Have you built a strong external network?
"A strong network can increase a manager's knowledge of industry trends and best practices -- keys to strategic thinking and innovation," said Mr. Beeson. "In addition, a strong network can act as your eyes and ears for job opportunities outside the organization."
- Action Item: Increase your network of people who can feed you strategic intelligence. Ask them what sources of industry information they track. Whether it's joining industry associations, attending conferences on strategic topics, or reading marketplace updates, you need to keep current with industry events as part of your ongoing education. In the future your network can also help you find the right opportunity if and when you decide to test the outside job market.
"By being keenly attuned to the factors involved in executive-level selection decisions, you can avoid falling into the common trap of believing that simply producing strong results in your current job guarantees advancement," said Mr. Beeson. "You may not be able to make the ideal job open up when you want it, but by understanding these unwritten rules, you can put yourself in a position to be a top candidate to advance when the right opportunity to move to the executive level becomes available."
To schedule a conversation with John Beeson or for more information, please contact Frank Lentini of Sommerfield Communications at 212-255-8386 or email@example.com.
About Beeson Consulting
Founded in 1998, Beeson Consulting provides management consulting services to some of the largest, most respected companies in the world. Services include succession planning, top-talent development, executive assessment, organization design and executive coaching. For each client, the firm brings to bear best-practice expertise; practical, action-oriented solutions; and a consultative, customized approach. All Beeson consultants have a combination of corporate and consulting experience.