Business World Rising
A Deb Boelkes Company Since 2009


Keys to promotion – Part I of 2

August 2019

You’re probably familiar with the important roles vision, mission and values play in establishing a firm foundation for all activities within an organization. These corporate statements help communicate the organization’s goals to all stakeholders. They are a way to get everyone on board, aligned, and engaged in support of a common purpose: to achieve the organization’s vision of success. 

But have you ever considered how important your ability to clearly communicate your vision, your mission and your value are to you winning important promotional opportunities, so you can achieve your own vision of success for you?   Interestingly, most of us don’t typically think about ourselves in those terms, but those who do tend to get ahead faster and further up the ladder than those who don’t. 

No matter how fantastic your WOW factor workplace may be, or how heartfelt your current manager is, don’t assume anyone, not even your best-ever boss, is looking out for your career. It’s one thing to have great ideas and do great work, but it’s quite another to ensure the powers-that-be understand your career goals and are on board, aligned and engaged in helping you get there.

Don’t assume you will magically be offered a great promotion the next time the perfect open position appears on the horizon. While you may have been offered your first career promotion or two out of the blue, that rarely happens once you hit mid-level management. You need to prove your mettle and take charge; lead your own career mission from the front. Help the key decision makers help you, and the sooner, the better. As Grandpa used to say, “Great career opportunities don’t grow on trees”. You must plant the seeds to harvest the fruit.

I can’t begin to count the number of times highly capable professionals have told me they were passed over for promotion in favor of someone else “not nearly as good”. Perhaps an internal opportunity was filled before they ever became aware of it. Maybe a hiring manager promoted someone else with less experience or expertise.  Or maybe a great idea they had for organizational improvement went unheeded. Why do these things happen? Let’s review one example now.

Cara was an ambitious go-getter. If anyone gave this gal a project or product to manage, she was all over it. Cara had an undergraduate degree in economics and an MBA from a top-tier university.  Over the course of her 20-year career, she was eventually recruited to a Director of Product Management position by a global technology company. She looked forward to someday becoming a vice president within her current division and she hoped to eventually promote into an executive-level role. 

One day Cara’s manager, Jim, told her about a senior director position which would soon become available in another division. He suggested Cara should put her name in for consideration for this promotional opportunity.  Cara immediately replied, “But I don’t know anything about that division. How could I possibly be qualified for that job?”

Jim assured her, he knew the senior leadership team over there. He believed with Cara’s tenacity, she could get herself up to speed in no time and would do a great job for them. It would certainly be a career enhancing move for her.

Highly skeptical, Cara asserted there must be far more qualified individuals within the company for that position.  Somewhat exasperated, Jim suggested Cara should ask Human Resources to send her a job description along with the list of qualifications for the soon-to-be posted position. He promised to review it with her once she had a chance to look it over.       

A few days later, Cara took the list of qualifications to Jim’s office. She sat down, shook her head, handed the list to Jim and stated, “There are ten very specific qualifications for this job. I only meet seven of them. No way am I qualified.”

Jim leaned forward, looked Cara in the eyes, and replied, “Cara, I hope you will forgive my offensive language, but don’t be such a woman.” Shocked and confused, Cara replied, “What do you mean by that, Jim?”

“I mean” Jim started in, “if I had mentioned this promotional opportunity to any of the guys who report to me, your peer product management directors, any one of them would have immediately come in here and bragged they were totally qualified if they met just three out of the ten items. Here, you meet seven out of the ten and tell me you are not qualified.”

About a month later, it was announced one of Cara’s peer directors had been promoted to the senior director position in the other division. Cara lost out on the promotional opportunity without ever interviewing for the position.  She found it hard to believe the company would have promoted someone even less qualified than she was.    

Now let’s swing back to our discussion of vision, mission and values

An organizational vision statement is an aspirational description of what the organization strives to become in the future and what it wants the community or world to become as a result. The mission statement more specifically defines what the organization needs to do now to move closer to achieving its vision and differentiates the organization from others in the industry. The Values statement defines what the organization believes in, its moral direction that guides decision making. It establishes a standard for assessing actions. 

Your ability to clearly articulate your personal vision, your career mission, and your value to the organization may be even more important to your success than the fact that you do great work.

-          Your personal vision should be a description of what you aspire to be in the future and what you want the organization around you, the culture, to become as a result. 

-          Your career mission should describe what you are committed to do for the organization going forward, to move it closer to achieving its vision while moving you closer to achieving your personal vision. Your mission distinguishes you from others in the organization.

-          Your value statement (vs. values) defines and quantifies the value you have delivered to the organization up to now, and defines and quantifies the value you are committed to deliver to the organization in the future. It establishes a standard for assessing the value of your mission to the organization.

Think of it this way: If key decision makers up line don’t know what you want to accomplish and are wholeheartedly committed to be held accountable for in the future, why would they help you get there?

If only Cara had a more clearly defined vision and mission for herself, and more importantly, a better appreciation for the value she was already delivering and would likely deliver for this company in the future, in the proposed capacity, she might have been able to capitalize on this important promotional opportunity. She could have potentially moved forward toward her vision of holding an executive-level role.

Just like successful companies, the people who succeed are the ones who stay true to their core values, relentlessly pursue their personal vision and mission, and possess a healthy appreciation for the value they have delivered and are committed to deliver in the future. But having such self-awareness and acting on it are two different things.

Something else Cara sorely lacked was the courage to step outside her comfort zone. Cara failed to believe in herself. If only she saw in herself what Jim had originally seen in her: that she could successfully leverage her go-getter tenacity to succeed in a new capacity, one where she could broaden her skills and experience, she could have better positioned herself for a role in the executive suite. Unfortunately, at the rate she is moving now, it’s doubtful Cara will get there.

Can you relate to Cara’s situation? Would you have been likely to respond to Jim the way Cara did, or would you have been more like one of Cara’s peers who apparently went after the promotional opportunity, even though it was in an unfamiliar division?

So, here’s your homework assignment. If you do not already have personal vision and career mission statements, take a stab developing them.  Understand that as people grow, near term objectives and goals may be reached, and in turn, your vision and or mission will need to be revised to reflect your current situation. If your previous career mission statement it outdated, revise it.

Give it a try. You may be amazed at the opportunities that might magically open up to you, once you are better prepared and more open to the possibilities.

Stay tuned for another example next month.

Deb Boelkes