Three Ways to Get That Big Promotion

4 min read

I received two emails this past week and took a phone call just this morning relating to getting that big promotion. Many are engaged right now in their annual performance reviews so I guess this makes sense.

Let me say this: if you are counting on getting that big promotion during your performance review, you’re too late.

Getting a Big Promotion is a process.

In my twenty years of executive recruiting, here are my Three Ways to get a Big Promotion:

The Devil’s Advocate – The executive suite love devil’s advocates. You already know who they are. This is the person in the meeting who raises their hand just when everyone thinks a consensus opinion on something has been formed. Their sentence usually starts off with, “but what if…?” They are simply challenging the status quo. And they are a critical part of any successful organization.

But there is a catch. A big catch. You’d better have a solution in your pocket. Simply challenging the status quo in a meeting without providing some alternatives will not be adding value to the discussion and will be looked upon as someone just trying to get attention. Not a good career move.

In my role as coach, mentor, and advisor with U.S. Special Forces, it was very instructive how the non-commissioned officers would challenge the officers during a presentation or After-Action Review (AAR). I also noticed how everyone would never challenge anything or anyone without having their own solution to present as well. And it was always done in a very respectful, straightforward way.

Raising concerns and challenging conventional (and unconventional) war-fighting doctrine is absolutely critical in a military special operations environment where conducting sensitive operations safely, securely, and successfully is always paramount. There are no egos. Egos get soldiers, sailors, and marines killed.

I’m convinced this Devil’s Advocacy way of challenging up and down the chain of command is why U.S. Forces have no peers when it comes to unconventional warfare around the world.

Before you close the book on your next meeting, just think for a moment if there is an alternative worth discussing. Being known as the organization’s Devil’s Advocate could be what gets you to the top.

Communicate Up and Down – You can be performing miracles in your job but if no one knows about it, it won’t do you much good, will it?

When I was a junior executive coming up through the ranks out of college, I was terrible at this. I would perform my functional and managerial roles with my head down working away rarely interacting with my supervisors. And because I was doing my job, they never felt the need to bother me. There was little interaction between us.

Big Mistake.

Proactively develop a relationship with your boss. Engage with them. Recruit them!

Try this: Ask what is the ONE THING that you can do within the next six months to make them look good. What is the one big problem that needs to be solved? They’ll tell you. But be careful not to write checks you can’t cash. Make sure the ‘one thing’ is something realistic to accomplish.

All this takes communication skills. You have to engage and communicate up and down the chain of command on a consistent basis. Not once per year.

This goes for communicating down to your direct reports too. Engage with them both in and out of the office. Ask them how you can improve. Ask them how the entire team can get better. Identify your Devil’s Advocate and encourage he/she to continue to take on this role. Trust me, they will make you better.

If you are getting a steady stream of feedback from top and bottom, you will find yourself performing at a high level because you are focusing on the things that are relevant to those both above and below you.

Track & Quantify your Accomplishments – So you have now settled in as your organization’s Devil’s Advocate and have now recruited your boss. They have informed you that there is an ‘open door’ policy so that you are welcome at any time. Now what?

After you determine what your specific goals and objectives are for you and your department, begin systematically tracking your accomplishments against these goals. It is important to do this qualitatively and quantitively.

Ideally, these goals, objectives, benchmarks, and metrics will be mutually agreed upon between you and your boss either in your performance review or a similar meeting with your supervisor.

Once you have your targets, you align and focus your daily duties towards meeting and exceeding these targets. Keep track of this in a log on at least a weekly basis. One person I had lunch with just today said she sends a weekly email to her boss with her three accomplishments from the prior week – genius!

Once you have this documented, you then communicate this with your boss. You make sure they know that you are meeting and exceeding expectations. A steady drumbeat of you consistently exceeding your goals AND documenting will set you up for that big promotion.

Combining the devil’s advocacy with communication up and down the line along with tracking your accomplishments will go a long way to getting that big promotion that you so richly deserve.

Next week: “How to Ace your Performance Review.”

Also, check out our award-winning bi-weekly podcasts at Talent & Trust Podcast and our Million Dollar Career series of YouTube interviews on Million Dollar Career YouTube Channel.

All the best,


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