We finish the three-part series on mistakes newly promoted managers make. Part one can be found here. Part two can be found here. In order for your team members to better assess themselves, we can help – take a look at our Team & Individual Assessment service.
Pushing to be promoted before you’re ready
In their zeal to grow their careers, some managers apply to senior jobs too quickly in order to get ahead. All they prove is that they don’t yet have the judgement to know the growth they still need to make.
Jo was clearly a manager on the move. After receiving her engineering degree, she joined an engineering consulting firm. She had done a great job in her first two roles, taking on roles supporting mining projects seemingly effortlessly, earning some very senior attention in their firm. She was very pleased with her career so far and she had now been in her third role for about a year working as an analyst. She was eager to get ahead and had had a conversation with her boss that morning to let him know she would be ready very soon if an opportunity came along.
To her surprise, he looked at her and shook his head. “I’m on my way to a meeting this morning but let’s chat about this tomorrow morning.” They set a time and she went back to work feeling a little uneasy. He hadn’t looked pleased with her. She had thought she was doing the right thing, showing initiative, speaking up for herself and letting him know her commitment to growing her career. What would he have to say tomorrow?
The next morning, they met in his office, sitting at his visitor table. He asked her why she thought she was ready for that next role. She talked about her accomplishments and her ambitions and her commitment to her career.
He nodded and commented that everything she had said was very true. “You have been very committed to doing well and to making a good career. And we appreciate that about you,” he said. “And you take on every task we throw at you with enthusiasm and energy.” Then he asked her what she thought she needed to learn next.
What do you need to learn next?
This question threw her a bit but she rallied and talked about the technical challenges she saw in the next role that she hoped for.
He nodded but asked her if there was any other preparation she needed to do to be ready for it? She looked at him questioningly. “I’m not sure what you mean,” she asked.
He nodded again and then he told her that in all of her comments, she had missed speaking about seasoning and growing the mature judgment that she would need in the new role. “The last thing I want for you, Jo, is to be put into a role where this kind of judgment is needed and to see you fail. And if you take on the role too soon before you are ready, you could torpedo your career and make advancement much more difficult. You are at a critical spot in your career and it’s a spot where many fail. I want to see you succeed.”
He went on, “You have not been working on the most complicated projects yet and so you will need some experience with these. Promotion is always a judgement call and often there is a difference in perception between a candidate and those who would make the choice on promotion. While you might feel you are ready, I feel you would benefit from another year in your current role. And there are three things you can do to increase your chances.”
Three things to know before a promotion
- You need to become more of a team player. In the next role, there will be more staff management time and less technical time. To prove your ability to manage in a positive way, you need to be respected by your peers for us to have evidence that they will take your direction well. We need people to be intentional about how they are in their teams and take as much pleasure and excitement in the team being successful as they are about their own success.
- In your current role, you haven’t had some of the more complex and challenging assignments. You need to be involved in these to stretch you and allow you to develop your maturity and judgment. I will look for a project that you could become involved in, not as a replacement for your current role but in addition to it. This will help you prove that you are capable of complex reasoning as well as balancing competing work pressures.
- You need to work hard to help others succeed. For example, in all the conversation we’ve had today about your career, I haven’t heard anything about the team you are on and how you have helped them. If you were to move up, whom would you suggest replace you? Are they ready yet to move up? I believe that a person shouldn’t get promoted until they have grown a couple of possible candidates to take their place. Look for ways to help some more junior staff grow and demonstrate that management can have confidence in your ability to manage others’ careers, not just your own.
Her boss asked her to go away and to think about the conversation, then return the following week with a plan for how she could stretch and grow in the work she was doing. It turned out to be a pivotal conversation in her career. Years later, she would look back and see that it was at that point, that her real career growth had begun. She had embraced his advice and had bloomed where she had been planted. And she’d never forgotten the advice about being an intentional team player. Every new level of peers had welcomed her when they experienced her willingness to enable their success as well as her own.
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