The Leadership Ladder
- complexity of problems
- solving your own problems, finding problems and being proactive to propose solutions
- experience with projects and products with different lifetimes. Brainstorming new ideas, delivering on them over time, and sunsetting older products
- working across organization boundaries to accomplish goals
- developing a team, of different levels, and help them progress in their careers
- managing teams of different sizes
- influence process and policy in your organization and across the company
- balance of operational and strategic skills
- balance of relationships and getting work done
- experience managing a budget
- sponsorship at multiple levels across the company
- represent your company externally
- patents, innovative ideas, and repeated business impact
Readiness for the Next Level
When you were hired, there’s a good chance that you read a job description with a list of responsibilities, job requirements, and preferred experiences. Each job has it's place on a job ladder. A management ladder may look like Manager 1, Manager 2, Sr. Manager, Director, Sr. Director, VP, Sr. VP, and C Suite. Each step of the ladder has unique requirements that are documented in job descriptions, like the one you applied for. I mention this because the same is true for promotions.
You may be rocking it at your level, but that’s not enough for a promotion. The first thing your manager will consider is if you have the requirements to perform at the next level. Often, they’ll give you challenges and work at the next level for 6 months or a year to test that you are ready. To know if you are ready for the next level, compare your credentials to the job descriptions posted at the next level and talk to your manager. Once any gaps have been identified, create a career development plan to capture the skills and experiences you want to develop.
Company Need & Budget
You are ready for a promotion. You've got the skills. You've got the experience. You are performing at the next level; however, your company may not have or need a role at the next level. Depending on the projects, the number of people on a team, and complexity of work; it’s possible that they don’t need another Director. Think of it this way, there aren’t two CTO’s at a company.
Not having business need can happen. This isn’t a sign that you aren’t ready, but a time to talk to your manager about the timeline for new opportunities. Then you can decide if it's worth staying or if it's time to move to another team or company to continue to grow.
Even if there is need, companies must also consider the impact to their budget. A promotion is an added expense for salary, bonuses, and any other added expenses for events and training at the next level. Companies don't always have the budget to promote everyone who is ready and sometimes have to prioritize who gets promoted.
Potential and Performance
Another dimension companies will look at is past performance and future potential. Every team may have a different opinion on which is more important and how potential is defined. Usually, potential is evaluated by looking at your potential to perform well at the next level. "New level, new devil". At each level, there are new requirements and responsibilities and a new group of peers. It's a disservice to you to promote you when you aren't ready for the new scope of challenges.
One note to my female and male readers, this is an area where gender bias sneaks in. We tend to lean forward on potential for men and lean back for women, requiring women to demonstrate their ability to perform longer than men. We also tend to hold mistakes made by women against them longer, than men. As we promote people it's important to have clear criteria and to check our decisions to eliminate bias.
Now that you better understand a companies point of view on promotions, it's time to prepare your case for promotion. Part of this is learning how promotions work at your company and finding out what skills are required for your next role.
About the Author
Kim-Elisha Proctor is an Executive Coach, teacher, and writer. For over 15 years, she has worked with companies at all stages of growth and understands the complexity of organizations and leadership that is needed for success. Whether one-on-one coaching, with groups or delivering leadership development programs, her passion is the same: to support leaders to enhance their performance, impact, purpose & well-being to create communities they long to belong to.