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Will You Get Your Next Promotion?

19 October 2011

Planning for a promotion should be an ongoing process and not something that happens when the role that you want emerges. In fact, those people with a written strategy for promotion tactics are more successful.

When Sandra called I could hear her concern. Although she had a good chance for an important new role in twelve months, she was not confident that those on the executive committee would back her unreservedly. It had been a tough year for the business and a couple of things had not gone well, including in her division. 

Sandra knew that senior appointments were often made ‘behind closed doors.’ Not having discussions with these decision-makers and planting the seeds about her suitability would leave too much to chance. She was also unsure of the ‘noise’ about her. After all, as you progress in your career you collect ‘labels’ – “she’s a great producer, but lacks ideas” or “she’s good at strategy, but can’t execute” or “she’s the marketer” or “she’s the accountant.” Whether it is fair or unfair: perception is reality.

Executives rarely get direct feedback on their promotion ‘deal breakers.’ Sandra was no exception. There are usually four themes that form an undercurrent of ‘noise’: capability, style, motive and ambition. If there were deep-seated perceptions about Sandra, they may have been formed over years, so it would require real effort to change them. 

Success takes more than just working harder. In executive work, performance counts, but success also depends on knowing the unwritten rules; designing career strategies; connecting and collaborating with diverse networks and stakeholders; knowing what truly matters; examining work-life choices; and having an 'advisory board' of champions or trusted mentors. Above all, you need a distinctive and valued leadership brand.

Rather than winging it, Sandra knew she needed a plan that included relationship-based, emotionally intelligent strategies. She spoke to her key influencers that cut across managerial levels and divisions asking for their support and suggestions. Reflecting on this feedback, emerging patterns and implications, she looked at what needed to change. This meant being and acting in new ways or less intensely or to stop them completely.  

Is your next promotion at-risk? Every candidate comes with some risk or gaps. Pre-empt. Take whatever constructive actions are needed to address or neutralise these perceptions. It can be empowering for your career aspirations.


Dianne Jacobs is founding principal of boutique talent capital consulting and executive coaching firm, <The Talent Advisors> (, and a former equity partner at Goldman Sachs JBWere. Her <blog> ( contains more material on this and related topics.

Metadata Keywords: promotion, career, career planning, unwritten rules, executive coaching, The Talent Advisors