"People don't get promoted for doing their jobs really well, they get promoted by demonstrating their potential to do more."
– Tara Jaye Frank, U.S. leadership consultant and author
Tears and Joy
My experiences working in human resources often involved being part of promotion selection panels. During that time, I sat through many interviews, and often shared in team members' emotions.
It was never pleasant to see a strong candidate's disappointment when he or she wasn't successful. However, I took comfort in the fact that our organization had a very fair way of selecting panel members, and we used a system that gave every candidate a fair chance.
Let me share with you some of the characteristics (over and above their technical skill and product or industry knowledge) that we looked for in candidates we were considering for promotion.
The Make or Break Factors
Flexibility. We worked in an industry where what was "in" yesterday was "out" today, and where what was new yesterday would be old news tomorrow. Change happened quickly and relentlessly, so we had no room for team leaders who resisted change or who were slow to implement it.
We looked closely at candidates' attitude to change. Was it, "Ah no, more change! This place sucks!" or, "OK, it's not comfortable, but let's see how we can do this to the best of our ability"?
Desire to learn. We always appreciated candidates who had proved to us that they wanted to learn. We wanted people who were able to transform potentially uncomfortable situations into learning opportunities, and who found creative ways to solve problems.
These team members often asked good questions, requested training, asked to shadow more experienced team members, and undertook self-directed learning in their downtime.
Emotional Intelligence. If we had two candidates with more or less equal skill and technical knowledge, the deciding factor was often who had the best soft skills. How well could they work with people? How did they react to feedback? Did everybody have to tread on eggshells around them, or were they able to manage their emotions?
It takes a lot of time and energy to manage someone's emotions if they can't do it themselves. From a productivity perspective, it's easier to promote someone who is emotionally mature.
Performance under pressure. During our peak seasons we were extremely busy, and how people handled pressure was always a key factor. Some people can handle pressure on the surface, but the quality of their work suffers. Others can't handle pressure at all. Yet other people take pressure in their stride.
Two seconds ahead. In his book, "The Two Second Advantage," Vivek Ranadive describes what made him an ice hockey champion. He wasn't the fastest, the biggest or the strongest, but he had the ability to anticipate where the puck would be two seconds later. He would position himself accordingly, meaning that he was ready to play the puck while the opposition players were still chasing it.
We always looked for people who could anticipate what a customer might need or want before the customer even knew it!
Promotion in Progress
It was interesting to see how some people felt entitled to promotions that they weren't ready for, or to see excellent candidates who doubted their own ability.
I saw people demanding to be promoted who resorted to a victim mentality when their applications were unsuccessful. I saw others who doubted whether they should apply, and were completely shocked and surprised when they got the promotion.
Sometimes, I literally had to wipe away people's tears. At other times, people jumped up and hugged the panel members when they were given the good news!
In our Twitter chat last Friday, we discussed promotion, career advancement, and other forms of progress at work. Here are the questions we asked, and a selection of the responses:
Q1. How do you measure the success of your own career progression?
@MyFamilyGenie Additional responsibilities, additional attention for projects and aptitude.
@GodaraAR By counting how many lives I have touched and created an impact.
@SayItForwardNow I measure success by how much I enjoy my work, how fulfilling it is, how much I am learning, and how much I appreciate the people with whom I work.
Q2. What does "progress" mean to you? Is it as simple as earning promotion, or is it something else?
A promotion might bring more money, but it could also mean that you spend less time at home or that you have to deal with a lot more pressure. Our respondents put job satisfaction and skills development above any potential financial boost.
@imaginyst Progress for me is meeting goals and getting better at what I do. Promotions don't always mean this.
@GenePetrovLMC Learning and growing. Have I learned a new skill to add to my repertoire? Am I growing in knowledge of my base skills? Am I able to serve more people in my business? [These are] key questions for me.
Q3. How pressurized do you feel by family, friends or co-workers to progress your career?
@MarkC_Avgi Over my career there was more pressure that I put upon myself to progress than was put on me by anyone else. I wanted to progress to be able to provide a better life for myself and my family, but not at the expense of myself or family.
@Ganesh_Sabari, a regular contributor to our #MTtalk discussions, brought an interesting perspective to the conversation. He said, "I never compare myself with anyone. Comparisons are meaningless. Direct competition does not exist with anyone else but me. My only competitor today is the "me" that I was yesterday! Progress simplified."
Q4. How can you take control of your career progress in a world where many factors are beyond our control?
@KLC2978 Push yourself and enjoy it! Embrace learning new things. Look for new opportunities inside current business but don’t be afraid to explore outside opportunities. You have to want to progress. Look for mentors who can help with progression.
@lauramo05720590 Improving your situation at work, or in other areas of life, requires being open to new possibilities. By taking courses, trying a new hobby, and expanding your network of contacts, you can feel more empowered.
Q5. Is social media a help or hindrance to career progression?
Most participants agreed that it's all about how you use it. And the feeling was that you need to be wise and use your discretion with what you share on social media.
@JKatzaman Don't hurt yourself by putting anything on social media you might regret. Ranting in private or in person is vastly different from doing it on the internet, which never forgets.
@Singh_Vandana I perceive it as a tool for career progression. Participating in various chats, discussion, etc. connects you to like-minded professionals. Growth and learning is immense.
Q6. What values are important to you regarding career progression?
@sittingpretty61 I look at opportunities which further learning and empathy by diversity of training, mentors, and mentoring to others. I also want my advocacy to amplify the life issues of the disabled and for women with disabilities.
@SaifuRizvi Commitment and integrity are key values for career progression.
Q7. How do you know when you're ready to move up to the next level?
@MegOKerns I think it depends on your growing pains within your career. Is the next step on your preferred career path? Are you interested in more learning/experience so that a lateral move would be more beneficial, or are you ready to move vertically?
@CareerGoals360 When you feel comfortable with your current position and responsibilities and you don't feel challenged enough, it's time to know you are ready to seek out the next level.
Q8. Is progress necessary for a happy, rewarding or fulfilling career?
@MicheleDD_MT It is for some. Depends on where you are in your career, your definition of happiness, and what you need to be fulfilled.
@FranklySandeep Progress is essential for happiness. However, every individual must honestly define what progress means to him and then sincerely accept it – or else there will be lot of movement but little progress.
Q9. How can you increase your chances of promotion within a big organization?
@Midgie_MT Step up for projects, network with colleagues, get involved in workplace initiatives not specifically related to work things.
@BrainBlenderTec Look for opportunities. Be noticed. Add value. Motivate others. It often puts you on the fast track.
@Singh_Vandana 1. Stay competitive and relevant within your domain. 2. Be willing to volunteer for many opportunities to learn and contribute. If you do good you will surely be noticed. 3. Do introspection on what you are good at and demonstrate your capabilities.
Q10. What advice would you give to your younger self about making career progress?
@eng_kyat Focus your attention and effort.
@SayItForwardNow Trust your instincts, celebrate every success, learn from every failure, and respect everyone.
@sittingpretty61 Stop being afraid of success and failure. Embrace discomfort – most of life is showing up and getting messy. If the phone rings, answer it, and manage the here and now. The rest will fall into place!
To read all the tweets, see the Wakelet collection of this chat, here.
One of the things that might determine your progress is how well you're able to work with people. Someone once said, "The nice thing about working with people is that you work with people. The downside of working with people is that you work with people!"
In our Twitter poll this week, we'd like to know what you think is most likely to cause conflict between people. Please vote, here.
In the meantime, here are some resources relating to career progression.