Five Ways to Fast-Track Your Promotion

This article, by former GE CEO Jack Welch originally appeared on LinkedIn

By Jack and Suzy Welch

Who isn’t impatient to get ahead? According to a recent national workforce survey conducted by IPSOS, a global market research firm, and the Jack Welch Management Institute, 31 percent of American professionals said they have been passed over for a promotion they felt they deserved and 43 percent thought about quitting their jobs in the past year, due to frustrations at work and limited opportunity for advancement.

And while promotions can sometimes be limited by the growth of your organization and other factors outside of your control, there are always certain things you can do (and make an effort not to do) to accelerate yours.

Obviously, the only surefire way to move up in the organization is to consistently deliver great results and deliver them the right way. But here are some additional tips to think about that have the power to help you to stand apart and get in the running – fast – so that the next promotion that comes around doesn’t pass you by:

Over-Deliver.

What does that mean?  Whenever your boss gives you an assignment or asks you to figure something out, he or she usually already has a pretty good idea of what the answer is. For example, if your manager wants you to confirm that the market share of one of the division’s products is 35% and you go out and do the work only to come back with “Yes, you’re right, it is 35%”, that isn’t over-delivering. It’s just doing what you were assigned.

But guess what? School is the only place where you get an A if you do exactly what you’re asked.  Work isn’t like that.  To over-deliver, you’ve got to redefine the assignment, make it bigger, and open your boss’s eyes to a larger horizon.

Don’t underestimate the incredible power of positive surprises. If you come back with something that’s truly eye-opening and presents a new opportunity, your superiors are going to remember it for a long, long time. In the example above, for instance, if you came back defining your market share within a larger market definition that no one had thought about before – that spells opportunity… And nothing will serve your promotion ambitions better than making your boss look smarter to his or her leadership.

Don’t Make Your Boss Play Defense.

No matter where you work, your boss has a certain wonderful thing called political capital in the organization that he or she has earned over the years by getting results and being a good team player. The last thing he or she wants to do is use it up on you – especially if you want a promotion. If someone has to come to your defense because you’ve done something stupid or careless — you’ve upset the client or you’ve been late a few times, you are using up political capital. If you ask your coworkers to cover for you, you are using up political capital.  And if your boss finds him or herself forced to say things like “Please cut Mary a break because she’s really a good employee; she’s just having some problems with her dog, okay?”, you’re definitely using up political capital.

That usually works precisely one time and then it gets very old.  So, pick that time very wisely, once every five years.  ­

Love Everyone.

When you’re gunning for a promotion, you often start being very, very loving to the people above you – it’s just what happens.  And as you spend all of your time tap dancing for the powers that be, you might tend to forget the people who work alongside you and below you and start to ignore them.  That’s ugly. Nobody likes it.  In fact, even the people in power probably take note and are grossed out by this behavior.

Now, a little bit of boss-handling is always par for the game.  “How was your vacation?”, “Understand your son scored two touchdowns on Saturday… Nice going.” Fine — everyone does that sort of thing.  But you have to go beyond kissing up and also show some love to your coworkers and people who are subordinate to you. Get to know them as human beings. Find what you authentically like about each one of them — not just in your immediate group but in the whole organization.  And yes, it really has to come from a place of authenticity — this is not something that can be phony because people can sense that right away. Yuck.

Just remember the path to your promotion is paved with big love, that’s real, and in every direction.

Volunteer for Tough Duty.

Every once in a while, a boss comes along with an assignment that nobody wants. A risky new initiative. A new job that involves working overnight.  The customer with the bad personality that everyone avoids representing. These kinds of risky or unpleasant assignments that no one wants are actually a great opportunity for you to raise your hand and really get out of the pile. You may not succeed at them, but you will get points just for putting yourself out there and saying, “I’ll take the risk. I’ll do it.”

Take those tough assignments just to get yourself on the radar — even if you have to hold your nose while you do it.  It could end up being the best career move you ever make.

Seek Mentors… Everywhere.

Look, everybody wants a mentor.  Under the right circumstances, having a mentor can be great.  Just remember one thing.  You’re limiting yourself greatly if you think you have to look to a single person as your mentor. Everyone’s a mentor, everyone.  Every person you know knows something that you don’t know — alongside you, up, down, and sideways. People in other companies. People you read about in the newspaper… Everyone.

So if your definition of mentoring is too narrow, redefine it to make everyone your mentor and soak up all the insights, ideas and best practices that live all around you. You’ll be so much smarter for it.

Ultimately, these five “extras” are no substitute for delivering solid results, all the time. But if you wake up every day thinking about how to supercharge your performance with them, it will be very tough for your organization to ignore you for long.

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Power Climb Rule 2 | How to get things done by asking for help

ask_for_help_at_work

You know people like this at the office.

They always seem to be having fun. They’re social butterflies, engaging everyone, moving cube to cube, talking, smiling, laughing and generally just enjoying being at the office. You can’t imagine how they get any work done. But they turn out to be one of the most productive and highly regarded people in the company. It’s annoying right?

Want to know how they do it?

They get help.

Many high achievers worry that asking for help is a sign of weakness. That they must do everything on their own otherwise others may believe they’re not up to the job.

Some think that if you want something done properly, you just have to do it yourself.

Ambitious women, especially, have this feeling that asking for help will somehow indicate that they’re not as good as their male counterparts. They’re afraid to come off as whiners.

This type of thinking is self-defeating and a barrier to your career growth.

Doing everything on your own sucks precious time into the black hole of grunt work.

Asking for help i.e. delegating, on the other hand, actually reflects leadership qualities. First, it shows that you can influence others to follow you. Secondly, it reflects your ability to manage and motivate others. Finally, it gives you the opportunity to think strategically on best use of your time for high visibility.

Robert Greene, in his The 48 Laws of Power, writes:

Use the wisdom, knowledge, and legwork of other people to further your own cause. Not only will such assistance save you valuable time and energy, it will give you a godlike aura of efficiency and speed … Never do yourself what others can do for you.

The key, however, is to make sure you go about it the right way.

Robert Greene goes on to say:

There is an art to asking for help, an art that depends on your ability to understand the person you are dealing with, and not to confuse your needs with theirs.

It’s never a good idea to just blindly ask help. You’re naive if you think that people will help you out of the goodness of their heart. Everyone around you is there for the same reason – they want to grow their careers. So they have to believe that by helping you, they’re also helping themselves. You’ll never get someone’s best effort and quality if they think they’re doing you a favor.

To do this right, you’ll need to put your soft-skills to work.

Appeal to their self-interest

If you need to turn to an ally for help, do not bother to remind him of your past assistance and good deeds. He will find a way to ignore you. Instead, uncover something in your request, or in your alliance with him, that will benefit him, and emphasize it out of all proportion. He will respond enthusiastically when he sees something to be gained for himself.

– Robert Greene

Before you make the approach, do your homework. Find out what’s important to the other person and how helping you will benefit them. If they’re ambitious, you can offer to get them visibility by public recognition of their contribution. Or offer to share credit on the end-result if they make significant contributions. It could be as simple as an email thanking them for their crucial contribution, also including their manager in the CC. Not only will they happily accept, they will work their ass off to ensure you get the best quality.

For some others, you may have to offer quid pro-quo i.e. something in return. It could be a promise to help them on their next project or help them solve a problem they have today. Sometimes, people are motivated by external issues. Maybe you can offer to cover for them when they have to duck out for personal reasons. Or you can offer to help them look for a car, or house or even move.

Basically, if you can ensure that the other person is helped by helping you, you’re in.

Caution: It goes without saying that money and sex should never be a part of the conversation. Don’t offer money in return for help. It cheapens everything.

Similarly, never, ever, never (seriously, don’t even think about it) offer sex or anything closely related to sexual stuff in return. It makes you cheap and complicates things.

Set them up for success

Always make sure you’re asking the right person for help. The person’s expertise should match with what you’re asking them to do. Asking the marketing girl to help you with financials is probably a bad idea. It’s just not her expertise. Asking her to jazz up your PowerPoint is probably a better way to go.

It’s also best to do as much of the legwork and prep as possible before you hand over the task. Clearly communicate your expectations and deadlines. Then be available to help them along the way. Otherwise if things go wrong, they’ll throw you under the bus by proclaiming that you set them up for failure. You’ll be stuck redoing their work on top of your own. Set them up for success by making sure that all the guesswork and pre-work is done, especially if it’s not their area of expertise.

Check up on them often.

Not in the annoying “Hey, are you done yet?” way but more in the “Hey, I’m just checking to see how you’re doing. Can I help in any way?”

Offer to help as much as possible. Help them overcome challenges. Connect them with others who can help with other parts of the puzzle. Facilitate. Facilitate. Facilitate. This way, not only do you ensure their success, you guarantee your success.

Show gratitude

Who doesn’t love a pat on the back?

After getting the help you need, make sure to thank your co-worker as much as possible. Make it clear to them and their manager that you could not have completed your part without their input.

Go out of your way. Be genuine.

Give them more credit than they deserve. It won’t hurt you at all.

Nurture the relationship

Don’t you hate those friends and family members that reach out to you only when they need something?

Same goes for work colleagues.

By asking for and accepting a colleague’s help, you’ve created a relationship with that person. They now see you as a partner to their career and as someone they can trust. It’s your responsibility to build on that by checking up on them from time to time. Even if it is to reach out just to say hello.

They will gladly come back to help you again.

And this … is good for your career.

Why loving what you do is good for your career

follow-your-dreams

We’re all unique. Not only in our genetic make-up but also in our emotional and psychological make-up. Our uniqueness attracts us to certain subjects in school, pushes us to pursue an interest or hobby and drives our career choices.

For some, a career choice comes naturally. It was a calling. Or a gut feeling that led them down the path they pursued. To others, it was their destiny to become a doctor, lawyer, actor or politician or social worker.

No matter what you call it, those who encourage their inner voice to express itself and let it guide their life end up loving what they do. They also tend to become wildly wealthy or famous or both. But usually, these people don’t actively seek fame and fortune.

They just want to spend their life doing what they love. Because they love what they do, they naturally want to become better. So they work harder. Hard work leads to small incremental improvements. They get excited and aim for more. They become obsessive in their desire for constant improvement. They don’t care about the hard work or the long hours. They grind away. Lack of sleep is not an obstacle. Lack of a social life or a “work-life” balance goes completely unnoticed. But they do notice the success that comes from each tiny, incremental improvement. Their careers become a very important source of pleasure and fulfillment in life. They are happy.

Financial success, fame and power are usually just side products of their love.

It seems so simple. When you follow your unique inner voice, not only do you get to do what you love, you also achieve success.

So why aren’t we all doing this? Why aren’t we all successful? Why do a majority of us get stuck doing jobs we don’t necessarily like that much?

It’s because we reject our inner voice.

From the moment we’re born, there’s an immense external pressure to ignore that inner voice. We are shaped by the influences of others. Whether it’s from parents who seek to direct their kids into a lucrative and comfortable career path or the unconscious peer pressure that makes you feel embarrassed to be different. Subconsciously these influences drown out our inner voice and superimpose their own.

So we choose a career that “sounds right.”

If it’s a career that doesn’t really suit you, invariably you’re going to lose interest and feelings of dissatisfaction will grow. You may not even realize that the cause of your frustration is the misalignment between your career path and your inner voice. Instead, unlike someone who loves what they do, you will subconsciously begin seeking pleasure and fulfillment from outside your work. You’ll focus on “work-life balance” and place importance on your social life.

In the end, your career will suffer.

As you become increasingly less engaged in your career, you lose focus. The quality of your work suffers. The frustration will creep into your interactions with co-workers. Eventually, you fail to pay attention to the evolving changes in the field. You fall behind and your skill-sets become obsolete. Instead of being the go-to person in your company, you just become dead weight.

No company wants dead weight.

Companies need employees that are engaged. They reward innovators in their field and those who actively lead improvements to the company as a whole. Unfortunately, it’s hard to become an innovator and leader of something you don’t love.

So what do you do?

You change!

Dig deep and find that inner voice. Evaluate your career choices and make changes. It’s not going to be easy. It may even mean taking a lower position or lower pay in a new career path. Don’t worry about that. It will pay off in the long run.

If you love what you do, success will come naturally.