CEO Chronicles #13: How do I get a promotion?

In the previous article Six Steps To Promotion we discussed how promotion is about how you are seen, as much as about what you do.

Then, we touched upon the differences in perception between Ferraris and Toyotas, and asked the question, “How do we do scale up our brand and be perceived differently?”

Thereafter, we met Gerry and saw how he set clear goals and learnt everything he need to achieve them.

Finally, we discussed and examined the first two approaches of the Six Steps –

Step 1: Setting Goals (Know what you want. Then, let others know what you want.)
Step 2: Keep Learning (Stay ahead of the curve. Anticipate the next turn.)

Now, may I introduce Maduri?

Maduri joined our company many years ago as a Junior Cost Accountant. She carried with her a few years of experience and a burning ambition. She was smart and articulate, and a wizard with numbers. I was not her direct supervisor, but she made it a point to meet me once every 2 weeks or so and talk about her work, her career and her progress.

STEP 3: Document Success. Display It.

Maduri was frustrated that accounting was not an area as easy to shine in as sales or marketing.

“Every time Gerry wins a contract,” she complained one day, “however small it is, everyone practically throws a parade! We work as hard, you know. And no one ever even says thank you.”

“Would it help,” I asked her, “if I told you that life was unfair?” I smiled, only half joking.

“Don’t I know it?” she shot back. “I am a woman, you know!”

“What do I do to get recognised?” Maduri asked, half to herself. “I do excellent work week on week. No one seems to notice what we do.”

“You have your answer right there,” I said. “You do excellent work. But, do you record it? And if so, do you show anyone what you have done, how much you have achieved?”

She looked at me and shook her head.

“Have you heard of the term, ‘recency error’?” I continued.

“Sorry, no,” Maduri said.

“Usually, supervisors tend to remember only recent occurrences,” I explained. “This leads to inaccurate and unfair evaluations of performance. How would you correct this?”

Maduri thought for a moment.

“By maintaining a record of what I do. And sharing this with my boss!” she exclaimed, excited. “If I document my successes, people will have no choice but to recognise me!”

She got up to go. At the door, she turned back. Her eyes shone.

“You know,” she said. “Documentation is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible!”

Build your portfolio

When choosing employees to be promoted, supervisors look at the value we have brought and continue to bring to the business. Sadly, they rarely remember our past achievements – they have too much on their minds to be able to record and remember everything.

Therefore, we need to build our own portfolio (through the year). Every time we complete an important project or performed a difficult task, we must record it. Most importantly, we need to focus on how we have impacted revenue, costs, productivity, innovation, growth.

One useful way to do this to carry out a weekly review, and to share this (once a month, once a quarter?) with your boss and your team. Not only does this negate recency, it has the added advantage of steadily building your brand equity as well as your track record.

Record your achievements. Ensure they are seen.

STEP 4: Be Collaborative. Be Indispensable.

A few weeks later, Maduri was back. This time, however, she did not have that intense look that meant she was ready to do battle. She seemed lost in thought.

“Is there a problem, Maduri?” I asked.

“No…” she said hesitantly, “not really a problem. The reverse, actually…”

“I’m just coming from Ramesh’s meeting,” she continued, “He was really complimentary. He said some sweet things.”

“Ramesh?” I asked, quite surprised. “Said sweet things?” Ramesh was a business head known for his gruff behaviour.

“I know,” she smiled, “I am as shocked!”

“What happened?”

“Well, it’s budget season, as you know,” Maduri said, “The team called me into their meeting as they were having some problems with the templates. I was able to sort these out and explain the various formulae, and how to complete the variable and fixed cost sections. Ramesh came in towards the end, and seemed quite impressed with my inputs.”

“Good for you!” I said. “I am so glad that you took time to help.”

Maduri paused, her forehead furrowed in thought.

“Well, if Ramesh’s team is having a problem, it is likely that the others are, too,” she said slowly. “I am wondering if I should offer to help them?”

“Knowing our business teams and budgets, they will welcome you like a desert welcomes rain!” I said.

“I liked the meeting with Ramesh’s team. It made me feel valued and special – as if I had something that they didn’t and I could share,” she said. “I would like to do this for the others, too.”

“That is a great idea,” I said, “Collaboration multiplies capability.”

“Let me go and speak to them right away.” As Maduri got up to go, she looked at me.

“I remember reading and African proverb,” she said, “’If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.’”

Build your USP

We need to be seen as team players who are committed to the greater good of the team, which ultimately benefits the company. More than this, we need to become an indispensable member of our team.

How? We could build expertise in one or two specific areas – for example, we could master the idiosyncrasies of the company’s IT system; or be the best maker of customer presentations; or be able to explain every line of the annual budget template.

Volunteer yourself in these areas. And help reducing your team-mates workloads by speeding up their projects.

‘Go-to’ people are not only sought after by fellow employees, they are seen by management because their names keep popping up frequently and regularly.

Be the ‘go-to’ person in your team. Be the person no one wants to lose.

Venkatraman Sheshashayee

Venkatraman Sheshashayee (Shesh) is Managing Director of Radical Advice, a business transformation advisory based in Singapore. He has over 34 years of experience in manufacturing, shipping and offshore oil & gas. Shesh’s previous roles include CEO of Miclyn Express Offshore, CEO & ED of Jaya Holdings Limited and Managing Director of Greatship Global. In his new avatar, Shesh helps SMEs, start-ups and aspiring professionals achieve their potential.
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