How Do I Get Promoted? – Identify Your Advocates

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In my previous blog, I discussed why it’s important to build your followership. The next step is to identify those advocates who can help you in your career. Advocates are those internal and external stakeholders that have some interest in your success and can influence your success.

For example, your direct manager should be easy to picture meeting these two criteria. Let me stretch your notions of advocates and suggest your boss’ boss with whom you may not have a lot of day-to-day contact. Or, the CFO or CHRO of your organization. Their interest in your success or failure is not as relevant to your boss’ interests, but they do have some level of interest in your success. The reasons for this are:

  • As a senior leader of any organization your responsibility is to ensure that there is a strong bench of talent and talent pipeline to help meet business goals.
  • Turnover is very costly to organizations. So losing a leader, especially a high performer, could end up costing your organization 2X to 6X your annual compensation depending upon your job level.
  • Having a high performing leader go to the competition is not very desirable and retaining talent should be in their best interests.

One special circumstance where identifying your advocates is critically important to your success is when you get promoted or hired into a new role. It’s essential during the first 90 days of your tenure to identify and spend time with your advocates to ensure you are successful.

Your Team and Peers

It’s really important not to lose sight of advocates you work with day-to-day. Your team members and peers can play key roles in your success or failure, so start with these individuals and build effective and trusting relationships.

For example, your direct reports have a lot to do with your success in general. In particular, if there is “noise” coming from your team that you are a poor leader, then that starts to make its way through formal and informal channels and can be devastating to your career. If your company conducts employee engagement surveys or uses 360 degree feedback for development or appraisal, there are ways the positive and negative of your leadership come out.

Peers are helpful if they advocate your leadership and contributions. To be realistic, if your manager wanted to promote you, would he or she get unanimous support from the team or a mutiny? It often happens where peers become bosses. So building and maintaining strong working relationships with your peer group is very important to your success.

How Do I Get Promoted? – Build Your Followership

how do I get promoted

Why is this important to career advancement? Simply stated, you need to get some help to move ahead in the organization. Most leaders rely on their immediate manager to represent them to senior management and help them with their career development. For many managers that is great leadership.

However, we often encounter the “selfish” leader who hoards all of his/her great performers. During my 30 years’ of HR experience, there have been numerous times I have approached a senior leader and asked to move one of their key performers to a promotional role. These have been some of the responses: “She’s too critical to let go.”  “Okay, but in 6 months after he completes this mission-critical project.” “He is my backfill and I have to keep him in my unit.”  “He’s not ready for that assignment yet so give me another year to work with him.”

Why would a seemingly good manager resort to this type of behavior? Simple, it is self-preservation. As a key contributor, you are likely performing at a level much greater than your peer group and to lose you would hamper your manager’s success in the organization. That’s why it is so important to expand the network of people that are going to help you move ahead in the organization and avoid any “career log jam” that might exist above you.


When I have recommended building your followership as a goal to high potential leaders, they often respond, “That’s too political and politics are offensive.” Yes, this development goal is offensive for your career, helping you become more well-known and recognized for the work and contributions you make in the organization. After all, the competition for the few senior leader openings is typically intense and many leaders have lost the opportunity to internal and external candidates. I see politics as a reality in any organization and used in the right and ethical way you can help yourself and your organization succeed.

By taking the “high road” and not engaging in any form of selling yourself and hoping your results speak for themselves is a naïve approach to get noticed and promoted today. Learning to index in both sides depending upon the situations will help you advance your career, garner the resources you and your team need to be successful, impact the organization in greater ways, and increase the likelihood of success for your department, unit and organization.

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How Do I Get Promoted? – Develop Your Talking Points

how do I get promoted

Most managers and Directors don’t get the exposure to senior leaders who are making the decisions for promotions to VP+ roles. It is clear that these senior leaders form perceptions of you through what they hear from their leaders and the brief times they may interact with you. These brief interactions or “moments of truth” are critical to showing them your ability to take on a new role, thus improving your opportunities for career advancement. So how can you do this? Develop your talking points for these “moments of truth” and try the following:


Typically, when interacting with senior leaders the topics are about product, people, process, policy issues or problems. When you are called in to the meetings your role may be very tactical and specific to help solve a problem. That doesn’t leave much room to have conversations about strategic topics. What you’ll want to do is to prepare for these planned and impromptu interactions and have your key points ready as the opportunities come up in the meetings and conversations.


One thing to remember is that senior leaders are expected to develop and mentor talent. As a result, they should not be opposed to having meetings with managers and Directors to discuss the business. I recommend that you seek out 1-2 senior leaders per quarter and schedule time on their calendars. Many people at first feel like this would be an imposition for these busy senior leaders, remember this is an informational meeting and that the senior leader likes being asked important questions to demonstrate their capability and perspective. So, a typical agenda for these short informational meetings may be:

    1. Introduction and establish rapport
    2. Ask about the business challenges and opportunities
    3. Describe your vision, mission, goals and how these relate to the business
    4. Ask if they would be willing to mentor you with periodic meetings
    5. Close with a big thanks for their time and perspective
Once you develop your talking points and meet with senior leaders, you will increase your visibility for promotions and improve your chance for career advancement.

How Do I Get Promoted? – Develop Your Vision and Mission Statements


Regardless of where you sit in the organization there is an opportunity for you to develop and communicate your direction and to demonstrate your strategic agility. By developing your Vision and Mission statements, you will go through the steps a senior leader is responsible for completing for a function or segment of the business.

The vision statement is a vivid description of the future for your organization or function. It defines the direction (i.e., Strategic Intent) for the organization or your function. The mission statement is why you are in business today. It helps define the purpose or reason for existence for your organization or function. Be sure that what you develop supports your company and function’s direction. Going through these steps will help prepare you for your VP+ role and give you a chance to get more exposure in your organization.

Your Vision Statement

In the most concise terms, your vision represents where you want your organization or department to be in a point in the future. A good time period for this step is 3-5 years in the future. To develop your vision statement, utilize this technique:

Imagine you are in a helicopter and flying over your operations in three years. In as much detail as possible, please describe what you see in of these areas. Be as detailed and creative as possible.

  • People, Products and Services
  • Processes
  • Customers
  • Work Environment and Culture
  • Leadership Team
  • Skills (hourly, staff, professionals, supervisors, managers, top management)
  • Core competencies
  • Quality and Safety
  • Competitive Advantages

Take this information and form a description of the future. Vision statements are typically one or two concise sentences. The vision statement should meet these criteria when completed (Nanus):

  1. Realistic. A vision must be based in reality to be meaningful for an organization. It must create a mental image of the future state.  It also has to be idealistic so that it is a stretch to achieve it.
  2. Credible. A vision must be believable to be relevant to your key stakeholders.
  3. Attractive. People must want to be part of this future that’s envisioned for the organization. It serves to inspire and motivate stakeholders. It can be a stimulus for change showing the future state is better than your stakeholder’s current state.
  4. Future. A vision is not where you are now; it’s where you want to be in the future. It can help create meaning in your employees’ lives by helping connect what they do to the vision.

So evaluate your vision statement along these criteria and continue to develop it until you are satisfied it meets all of these effectively. Then take the vision statement and seek input from your key stakeholders and continue to refine the work.

Your Mission Statement

how do I get promoted

The next critical component for developing and demonstrating your strategic agility is the development of your mission statement. Like the vision, the scope of the mission statement is a function of your role in the organization. As a manager or Director your mission should encompass your department. As the CEO your mission is for the entire organization. Unlike the vision statement, we recommend that you involve key people on your team to help develop the mission statement. You’ll need to reserve several hours for a robust discussion since you’ll need to make choices along the way to develop a laser focus on your value proposition.

Follow these steps to complete your mission statement:

  1. Review the current state within your organization and ensure you fully understand the broader mission of the company and function. Your mission must support the organization’s mission and direction.
  2. Answer these questions:
    • Who are your customers?
    • What are your customers’ key needs?
    • How do you perform the work?
    • What do you value in the organization?
    • What are the key gaps that exist in the organization or department that you want to address and incorporate into the mission statement?
  3. Take the output of Step 2 and form your mission statement. Here are the criteria of good mission statements:
    • Mission statements are short and concise.  Usually 1-2 short sentences. The means each word is significant.
    • Your mission statement should indicate the value of your organization or department and why you exist.
    • Your mission statement should be focused and separate you from the competition. A generic mission may be able to be applied to any of your competitors and won’t distinguish you to customers.
    • Your mission statement should be energizing to your employees.
  4. Seek broad input to the mission and don’t surprise your employees. Meet with all levels of employees and get their input about your mission statement. Use the feedback to refine your mission.
  5. Communicate the mission broadly within your organization. It has to be a constant communications element for your leadership going forward.
create compelling vision statements

Get Promoted By Developing A Deeper Understanding of Your Business


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How can you get promoted? Have you tried developing a deeper understanding of your business and industry? It is not enough to be the technical expert in leadership roles; it is the application of this business knowledge that makes the difference for leaders who advance in their careers.

Here are some ways to help you increase your knowledge and understanding of your business:


A great way to learn about your company’s strategy and business is to find articles, presentations, press releases, analyst reports, etc., that are already available. The internet has made this research very easy and opens up all types of information to anyone who is willing take the time. Here is a checklist of items to start your research on your company and industry:

  • Your own company website. If public go to the investor relations pages.
  • Analyst and Industry reports.
  • Annual reports.
  • Company databases.  (e.g., Hoover’s, Yahoo!Finance, Fortune 500, etc.)
  • Company financials.
  • SEC filings (if public).
  • Books with mission statements.
  • Interviews with senior leaders of your company.
  • Directories and websites (e.g., Inc.5000, Thomas Register.
  • Articles published.
  • Trade associations offering insight about the industry or products.
  • Newspaper articles.


There is a complete understanding of your company within the four walls and it is up to you to locate and tap into this vast knowledge base. It takes time to identify the right people and to spend time with them developing a better understanding of your company and industry. Here are suggestions to help you get started:

  • Identify the key leaders in each function that can provide the best information about your company (i.e., Sales, Marketing, Operations, Customer Support, Engineering, Finance, HR, Procurement, Logistics, etc.). Another great source are your company’s Board members.
  • Set up a meeting with these leaders to learn more about the different aspects of your business.
  • Develop your agenda and questions for the leaders when you meet with them.
  • After the meetings summarize your learnings and how these apply to your business responsibilities.



There are opportunities to attend various presentations made by senior leaders that include Earnings Releases, Trade Presentations, Analyst Presentations, Industry Presentations, etc.


Figure out how you can schedule time to spend with your customers. You may be able to attend customer meetings with the sales team or listen to customers calling into your customer support department


Identify the most relevant associations for your business needs, then join these groups and actively participate. You will be able to attend your own company presentations and also access broader information about the industry you are competing in and what the dynamics are within this industry.

Without a good in-depth understanding of your business which includes products, services, customers, markets, competitors, financials, human capital, etc., it is impossible to be effective in demonstrating your strategic agility. It’s not hard to increase your business knowledge once you identify the gaps; it just takes some dedicated time to acquire this knowledge.

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How Do I Get Promoted? – Strategic Development Plan Case Study


It’s simple, but sometimes leaders are in a rhythm performing their jobs for months and years and they have not stepped back and analyzed how they are doing it. To step out of the expected role and demonstrate your strategic agility takes many forms depending upon your company and role.

In this case study, Sam was a high potential multi-unit manager in a large global restaurant company. He had been with the company about 10 years and risen through the ranks from Manger to General Manager to Director of Operations (DO). He had been in his current role for about five years and was deemed promotable to the Regional VP role. The competition for these few promotional opportunities was very tough and he had six colleagues who also had the same amount of tenure in the DO role as Sam and also had some very strong performance.

Sam had distinguished himself as a consistently strong performer and was in the top five on just about every metric:  Profits, Staff and Management Retention, Sanitation, Overall Guest Satisfaction, Quality Service and Quality of Food. In spite of Sam’s stellar track record, the company placed Strategic Skills as critical in the VP role for a variety of reasons. These included a rapidly changing external environment, global expansion, lack of sufficient talent to fill key manager roles, and an inconsistent economy.

When I started working with Sam, I needed to help him prepare for the next level of leadership responsibility and help show the senior leader decision makers that he had strategic skills and needed opportunities to demonstrate this outside of his normal role. We also knew Sam had the ability based on a Critical Thinking Assessment we use in evaluating candidate for promotion and development. Leaders who score higher on this assessment have the capability to handle new and complex situations and problem, and make sound decisions with the data they have at the time. Sam’s goal to help him develop and display strategic skills was: Leverage strategic skills to further impact the business within 12 months.


Here are the action steps on his development plan that, when executed, helped Sam display his strategic skills:

  1. Improve my delegation skills. The aim of this step was to help Sam emerge from the details, find time in his week to work on strategic tasks, and develop his potential successor.
  2. Subscribe to industry publications. The aim of this step was to broaden his knowledge and understanding of the industry and to be able to have discussions with senior leaders that demonstrated his outside-in critical thinking.
  3. Communicate my vision for the Area to key stakeholders for comments and support. The aim of this step was to get Sam used to developing longer-range goals and plans as well as communicating these to his team, peers and senior leaders.
  4. Display my long-range planning horizon to senior leaders of the company. The industry requires the field jobs to be very tactical and ensure every detail is executed flawlessly. When Sam met senior leaders, he typically discussed the myriad of details and tactics and they were fine with this since they could get updated on the business. What Sam started doing was to change the nature or the conversations with senior leaders during his opportunities to meet with them. For example, he developed several questions to incorporate into his conversations:  What do you see as the most critical issues facing the company in 3-5 years? What opportunities do they see as critical for the company to capitalize on the capture more market share? What is the competition doing that concerns them and how can we thwart their initiatives?
  5. Lead a task force that is focused on an enterprise-wide business opportunity. While this action step has multiple benefits, the main one was to show senior leaders that Sam was capable of addressing larger-scale business issues which were much more complex than those he faced in his Area.

After 12 months Sam had executed his action plan steps and went through a very rigorous evaluation process along with his peers in line for the VP job opportunity. Sam was able to demonstrate his strategic skills and based on this, along with his performance and support from peers and colleagues, he was promoted and is thriving in his new role.

Development Planfor Top Leaders

How Do I Get Promoted? – Best Practices To Develop A Strategic Plan


There are best practices for implementing a strategic plan and by following these steps in your current role you’ll be able to practice what you would be doing at the highest levels of your organization. Briefly, the steps to developing an effective strategic plan include:

  1. Determine the current state or present situation.This is important to understand where the organization stands today and where senior leaders want to take the organization in the future. A useful tool for this step is to conduct a comprehensive analysis of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT). See our previous blog for a sample SWOT analysis.
  2. Define the future state. In this step you would want to develop your vision and mission outlining what you want to strive to accomplish in the future. Develop the longer-term goals in terms of how you’ll know when you achieve the vision. These typically are 3-5 years in the future and are key financial, operational, customer and people metrics.
  3. Identify key gaps. In this step you compare the current state with the future state and identify the key gaps that exist.
  4. Develop priorities, actions, and accountabilities. In this step you select the most important gaps to address (i.e., those that when addressed increase the likelihood your organization will achieve the long-term goals). For each of these priorities you assign a person responsible for leading the development and implementation of the actions.
  5. Schedule progress reviews. Meet monthly with those involved in the development of the strategy and tactics and review progress.
  6. Update the strategic plans. At least annually revisit the strategy, tactics, and progress and make adjustments for the following year. Repeat the process every 12 months.

By following the approach to strategic thinking and a process to operationalize it, you can develop and demonstrate your own strategic agility.

12 month leadership development plan & toolkit

How Do I Get Promoted? – Case Study on Strategic Agility


John was a newly hired plant manager operating one of the most successful facilities in the North American Region for a global supplier of industrial products. While the plant was very profitable, its products were becoming commoditized and foreign competition was making inroads eroding market share in several core products. John needed to establish clear direction for the operation, gain alignment among his leadership team for the new direction, develop long terms goals, and the tactics necessary to ensure survival and viability of his operation.

He set out to develop this through a series of meetings that I facilitated as his executive coach. We completed the first step to develop a good representation of the current state using a SWOT analysis of the operation. Critical input into the SWOT were internal team members, internal customers (i.e., sales, marketing, purchasing, etc.), and key customers. Following is a sample of the SWOT for John’s operation:

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After the SWOT analysis was completed John and his leadership team developed their Vision and Mission statements and long-term goals. To illustrate John’s strategic agility he developed the following:

  • Vision:  To be the preferred solutions provider and partner to customers operating a world-class, data-driven, and employer of choice facility.
  • Mission:  We provide value-added quality solutions for our customers through technically advanced cost-effective industrial products.

Long-term three year goals were established that were both difficult and achievable.

  • $200,000 Revenues
  • 13% EBITDA
  • Zero recordable injuries
  • Highly engaged employees

The next step for John and the leadership team was to identify the key gaps to their future state, prioritize these gaps, and develop action plans and accountability for each strategic initiative and tactics. A sample of some of these initiatives follow:

  • Build a high performing leadership team
  • Improved new product development process and reduce time to market
  • Build stronger customer relationships

Each of the strategic initiatives had an “owner” responsible for leading the actions to successful completion and reporting on the progress of the plan.

As you know, developing the strategy is only one element of strategic agility. It’s not much use if the leader isn’t able to communicate effectively and in ways that motivate and energize all key stakeholders to assist in implementing the strategy. And that has become John’s key role within his plant and the corporation.

As you can see, John was able to develop and demonstrate strategic agility in a tactically focused role in middle-management. Please use this as a template for your department, unit, or company.

Development Planfor Top Leaders

How Do I Get Promoted? – Develop Your Strategic Agility



We define strategic agility as someone who develops an inspiring picture and communicates your vision of the future, establishes long-range goals, and allocates resources to accomplish goals. A leader with strategic agility develops and executes effective strategies and plans for addressing potential problems and achieving goals.


How many times have you heard from your managers that in order to be considered for promotion you have to, “demonstrate you are able to think strategically,” “or “show you can plan long-range?” Even if you haven’t heard this before, you definitely need to embrace strategic agility as a core competency to move into the senior and officer jobs.

When working in small and mid-sized companies, I have noticed that the EVP or CEO could be the strategic thinker and need the VP/SVP roles to execute his/her strategy. In larger companies my experiences are that VP/SVPs are still mostly execution and short-term focused and strategy resides in the higher C-level positions. Regardless of where the shift from tactical to strategic takes place in your organization, to get promoted to the very senior roles you have to demonstrate strategic agility. How this shift occurs in your organization may be different, but the point is that as you rise in your organization strategic agility becomes essential to their long-term viability and success.

It is not only the strategic agility, but the abilities for communicating in inspiring ways, creating accountabilities for implementation, and getting the intended results.


  • Creates a compelling and inspiring vision for the future. Indicates how the department or function or company would be different and why others should follow.
  • Sets stretch goals in core areas of financial, operational, customer and people that will be achieved in the future (i.e., typically 3-5 years). 
  • Identifies the bigger picture/market, avoiding focus on the details (at expense of big picture). In other words, you stick your head up from your role and look at the internal and external factors that are driving success and integrating this into your day-to-day tasks.
  • Offers suggestions and recommendations that address the longer-term issues and opportunities (as opposed to the shorter-term). 
  • Develops effective strategic plans to achieve his/her goals. You would have your vision, longer-term goals, strategic initiatives, action plans, and accountabilities for execution.
  • Balances short and long-term requirements when making decisions every day.cps_develop_strategic_agility
  • Accurately anticipates future risks, consequences and trends and develops contingency plans to achieve goals.
  • Identifies the future needs of key stakeholders (e.g., Shareholders, customers, people, external parties, etc.).
  • Considers competitive actions or threats. Demonstrating you are addressing competition and potential threats to your success displays a core element of strategic agility.
  • Aligns resources according to strategic priorities. So adequate resources are provided to help with the tasks performed today that are investments to the future success and that resources are aligned with the most important elements of the company’s success.
  • Communicates in compelling and inspiring ways. It’s not enough to be great at the strategy alone. You’ll need to be able to communicate your visions, goals, plans, and results in such a way that employees are committed to help achieve the direction.

The behaviors outlined above are a good start to begin to develop and display in your current role so that you get noticed for your strategic agility in addition to your performance. By mastering these behaviors and finding ways to demonstrate your strategic agility, you’ll be able to answer the question senior leaders have regarding your capability to help the organization grow and prosper in the long-term and contribute at a higher level.

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How Do I Get Promoted? – Create A Leadership Development Plan

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Developing your leadership skills is hard work. By using effective leadership development tools such as a leadership development plan, you can begin to take the steps needed to put you on the path to success.

Creating a leadership development plan is the most critical step toward your success in achieving even greater leadership impact than you currently have today. I have found that more progress will be made if you treat your leadership development like any other development project. If you don’t set goals and document your actions there is a much greater chance your time and attention will be distracted by your day-to-day demands in your role.

Once you select your competency areas to develop (see previous blog on self-assessments), it is time to prepare your development goals and it is important for you to have goals that help you focus your energies and efforts, give you milestones to measure, and motivate you to continually succeed in your job activities. Like all goals, development goals should take on the SMART characteristics to increase the likelihood of successful accomplishment S – Smart, M – Measureable, A – Attainable, R- Realistic, T – Timely.


  • What are you trying to achieve (Your goal!)?
  • What are the 4-6 major action steps to get to achievement?
  • What support/resources do you need?
  • What are the barriers or obstacles to prevent progress?
  • How might you overcome these?
  • What is the timeframe to complete each step?

The next step is to create your action plan and use the template below to help. Download a sample leadership development plan here to help you create an effective leadership plan.

12 month leadership development plan & toolkit