Thinking about your next promotion? Great! As a coach that works with talented and ambitious executives, that is music to my ears. But it’s only half the equation.
Taking action is also required. And this in my experience is where those who are more strategic in their thinking and committed to making their goal a reality breakaway from the crowd. This is especially true the higher-up you go in the organisation and are met with a thinning pyramid of promotion opportunities that are highly contested.
Tony (not real name) was one such executive, a high-performer that was greatly admired by senior executives across the organisation and identified as having executive leadership potential by HR. He told me he requested to work with an executive coach long before any promotion opportunity was in the pipeline because he wanted to be sure he was ready. “I know I’m ready, but I need to do a health-check to be sure. Because, what if I’m wrong? I need to know that others also believe I’m ready to take on a bigger leadership role.”
And so began our work together which continues to this day and several promotions later. Tony’s pro-activeness greatly paid-off, giving him both the “health-check” feedback he needed and more importantly the necessary time to work on that feedback well in advance of being in the throes of an intensive interviewing process.
While every organisation may not be as supportive as Tony’s in providing executive coaching, three things that you can start doing for yourself today to ensure your promotion readiness are:
- Have a ready-to-go updated CV or organisational application form that you are proud of and that does justice to your experience, skills, strengths and achievements to date. Use your time now to have this ready, requiring only minimal tailoring when applying for the advertised position. Widen your perspective by asking trusted senior executives, mentors, colleagues, friends, people who have achieved what you want to give you honest feedback, so you authentically showcase your talents and impact succinctly. In my experience far too often, people put-off doing this up-front preparatory work until it’s required, putting themselves under additional stress and pressure in the run up to a closing date deadline. If you know for sure that you will be applying for a future promotion, then do yourself a favour and invest in doing this work today. You will thank yourself later.
- In addition to building your operational network, create a plan to equally build your strategic network of external industry thought-leaders, influencers, disruptors and innovative think-tanks. The benefits to you of a strategic network is three-fold: firstly it enables you to keep your finger of the pulse of new technologies and competitive practices that may reshape your industry, secondly it will challenge and stretch your thinking and in turn that of the organisation when you bring your ideas and points of view to the executive table, and finally it will be the knowledge source from which you can craft future-focused strategies that will enable you standout at interview. Stepping into bigger leadership roles brings with it a requirement for a different set of skills, a step-up from operational skills to strategic skills. Investing in your strategic network today will serve your future ambitions very well.
- Finally make a plan to refresh your interview skills, especially if it’s been three or four years since your last interview. And while you can engage the services of HR or a professional coach nearer an actual interview date there is a lot you can proactively do in the meantime to keep these muscles nicely oiled and primed. Firstly you can plan a 40 minute mock-interview with a trusted advisor or mentor, doing it for real, taking on board their feedback and repeating it a second time embracing the learnings. If they are comfortable with you recording it, even better, you can review and assess how you are coming across to a prospective interviewer. You can also compile a list of anticipated questions and leadership scenarios as preparatory test questions to be prepared for, adding any challenging or tough questions you come across from others experiences. And finally you can take the time to really identify your unique and wonderful strengths and let these guide you when assessing your fit with a future role.
Taking action today is your promotion insurance for tomorrow’s success, because you just never know when a new role may become available.
Wishing you well,
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