There are a few key things you need to do in order to maximize your promotability.
The first is to know the difference between being a workhorse and being a trusted advisor.
Everyone loves a workhorse, but workhorses generally aren’t at the front of the line for promotion. They’re mired in the detail of the work, and they often focus on driving results by sheer force of effort, regardless of how their team members perform.
Trusted advisors, on the other hand, demonstrate their grasp of the issues and problems that occupy their bosses minds, and they showcase their readiness for the next level.
The second principle is to strive to make yourself redundant rather than making yourself indispensable.
Leaders who try to make themselves indispensable like to hoard knowledge: they make themselves critical to the activity, and it would be easy to draw the conclusion that their team can’t perform without them!
It’s only when you can step out of the team without its performance declining that you can be freed up for promotion. Then you can look for your next opportunity – whether it’s in the same organization or somewhere else.
The third principle is to understand the difference between business acumen, and leadership capability.
You can go a long way on your business acumen and your technical knowledge. But the higher up you go, the more you rely on being able to mobilize others to deliver results, rather than doing it yourself.
Business acumen is necessary, but not sufficient. If you want to achieve the types of results that really make your team stand out, you need to have strong leadership capability.
If you don’t get these three things right, then you could simply be seen as a key person risk… someone who the organization is worried about losing, but is still not prepared to promote.
If your boss is thinking about talent and succession properly, he’ll be thinking about a few key promotability indicators:
- The relationship between potential and performance
- The difference between knowledge and capability
- Multi-skilling and risk elimination
The moral of the story is that you should know where you are in this picture. If you don’t know already, then talk to your boss to find out if you’re valued, if your current role is critical, and if you’re part of your organization’s succession planning discussions.
Your goal should be to position yourself as a trusted advisor, who thinks about the broader issues, while energizing your team to deliver extraordinary results.