Business World Rising
A Deb Boelkes Company Since 2009


Keys to promotion – Part II of 2

September 2019

Last month we discussed how having a clearly defined personal vision statement and career mission statement, along with a healthy appreciation for the value you are delivering now and are committed to deliver to an organization in the future, you can enable yourself to better assess and capitalize on important promotional opportunities when they arise.

Now let’s look at another example:

Tina served as vice president of education for a well-known and highly respected not-for-profit organization within her community. One day over lunch, she confided in me about an idea for how her organization could dramatically increase their donor base, and possibly even pay off the debt load for their new building, if they created a new development department to focus on an untapped market segment, one she had worked in prior to joining her current organization. I could see the excitement in her eyes as she shared her vision. But then, once she finished her story, she shook her head, saying, “but they’ll never do this.”

I asked her to explain why she thought her idea wouldn’t fly. She rationalized, “because my boss, the senior VP of operations, isn’t responsible for fund raising. He won’t care, so there’s no point in even bringing it up.” I suggested she should instead present her proposal to her second line manager, the President. Surely he would care, since the current development organization reports up to him. She replied, “I would never go around my boss.”

So, I took a step back and asked her if she would be interested in leading the kind of organization she envisioned.  Her eyes lit up at my suggestion, but she immediately shook her head and stated, “They would never give me such a position. I’ve never worked in development before. I’ve always been in education.”

“But you know this new market segment better than anyone else in your company!” I replied.  Having created a variety of new organizations myself, I coached her on how to structure a conversation with the President to sell her vision. I was sure he would want to hear her idea. I also encouraged her to ask for the job of leading her proposed new organization, along with the budget, headcount, and a title commensurate with the position. I also told her to make sure, during this conversation, to clearly spell out the highlights of all she had already created and delivered in the short time she had been there, as evidence she can be trusted to deliver on her new vision.  

Tina listened intently and then replied “But that would be bragging to talk about myself like that. It wouldn’t be right to do that.” I looked at her straight in the eye and said, “Tina, I know you pretty well, but I don’t know everything you have done since you joined this team. Your President might not know what you have done either. Can you help me understand what you have done that didn’t exist before your arrival?”

She proceeded with a litany of things she had created and accomplished since coming on board. After which I replied, “So what you have just explained was simply a statement of facts. You weren’t bragging. You simply need tell your president what you just told me so he will have the facts, too. You can’t expect him to make a decision to move in a new direction without the facts.” Tina nodded in agreement, but I detected some reluctance.     

Six months later, Tina remains in the same job she was in when we met for lunch. She has not shared her idea with anyone else in the organization for fear they might steal her plan and she has not scheduled a meeting with the President. Another opportunity missed.    

Have you ever had a great idea you believe could dramatically improve business operations but you didn’t want to make waves so you kept it to yourself? Or, were you afraid to share your great idea with anyone out of fear they would run with your idea and not give you the credit or a promotion that should go along with your idea? 

You might have the best, most brilliant idea in the world, but if you don’t socialize the idea with people you can trust to help you, perhaps a mentor, if not your manager, how can you possibly turn your vision into reality? How can you help your organization become a WOW factor workplace? If you don’t tell anyone, it’s possible no one else will come up with the idea, and the organization will miss out on it entirely. If someone else does come up with the idea, they will likely be the one to get the promotion and you’ll miss out. You’ll still be plodding along where you are now, for heaven knows how long, unless and until you drum up the courage to sell your vision. 

In this case, Tina had somehow managed to climb all the way up the ladder to a vice president level position. But when the rubber met the road and she finally had a truly unique idea that could have catapulted her organization and her career to new levels, she was anchored down by an odd notion that talking about her accomplishments was impolite, conceited bragging.

Rather, she had every well-deserved reason to take healthy pride in all her achievements. She would not have been out of line to spell out to her up line management the value she had created so far and could deliver in the future in her proposed new capacity. At the very least, she should have presented her idea to her immediate manager. If he was not interested in running her idea up the flag pole, or go with her to present her idea to the President (where he could sing her praises for her), she could have then informed him she would take her proposal to the President on her own. She had every right to do so.  

In this case, Tina had a defined vision and mission for herself, as the leader of a new development organization. She even knew the value she had already delivered and would likely deliver in the future to the organization. What she lacked was the courage to share all this with her manager and/or her manager’s manager. She also needed to believe in herself … that she could successfully learn what she needed to know, and would be great leading a new team, in an entirely new capacity. 

As I stated last month, 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 vision and career goals and are on board, aligned and engaged in helping you get there. You need to prove your mettle and take charge. You must plant the seeds to harvest the fruit. If you don’t, not only do you lose out on great career opportunities, your organization could miss out on tremendous opportunities to become a stronger, better workplace with far more WOW factor.

So, here’s your homework assignment. Assuming you now have a current and updated personal vision and career mission statements (your homework assignment from last month), take the time to write down all you have delivered in your current and prior capacities for your organization. If you don’t think you have delivered much value, then you have more homework to do to figure out how you can start delivering greater value doing something you really want to do and would love to do, even if it means moving to a different department or division in the organization.   Life is too short to not do what you love. Only when you are doing what you love will you be able to deliver WOW factor results and enable others to do the same.

Give it a try. You may be amazed at the speed to which your career can accelerate. 

Deb Boelkes