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What are the Real Reasons People Get Promoted and Others Don’t?

What are the Real Reasons People Get Promoted and Others Don’t?

If we want to move onwards and upwards in our careers, we need to climb the ladder. It may seems like it’s a long game of politics but that is not always the case. There is usually an element of fogginess and it’s not entirely transparent how the promotion process works, so what are the real reasons that people get promoted or not?

Jason M. Lemkin, CEO and Co-Founder of Echosign which was acquired by Adobe and then worked as a VP in Adobe provides some insights into the process from his personal experience as found in his Quora Answer (Thanks to Jason for letting us share this answer).

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    I’d like to provide some insights from my experience as a VP as a leading F500 tech company, and as a reasonably successful start-up CEO.

    Promotions in the F500 are indeed complicated, but let me focus instead first on Performance Reviews, which is a penultimate step to promotion, and something in my F500 experience that materially impacts your compensation.

    And here is my learning.  Reviews go into High, Strong, Good, and Needs to Improve basically in all Big Tech Cos.  (Some have SuperHighs, but that’s rare).  And in my experiences, even at Adobe, even at a F500 leader with 10,000 employees … there were zero politics in becoming a HighBecause it’s so clear who the Highs are.  

    The only real issues, the politics, is the fact that some groups have too many High candidates (often the outperforming products), and some have too few, which warps the curves a bit.  So it’s actually harder to be a High in an outperforming group than an underperforming group.

    Having said all that … really no politics.  This was pretty surprising to me.

    Now, of course, not every High can get promoted.  But even the promotions, while not always the decisions I might make or you might make — were always based on results.  

    I know some of you will say your experience is different, but I’m going to suggest once you strip away the emotion, and once you see how the sausage is really made … that it’s probably the same in any growing tech company of any scale that has solid, experienced management.

    So now, How to Get Promoted?  In both (x) my Big Tech Co experience, and (y) my post-20-50 employees in a strong start-up experience, to get promoted, here are my learnings:

    1. Demonstrate successful leadership. 

    This is what everyone is looking for.  Everyone.  Someone to take and carry the load.  As long as you have an experienced boss — they will take notice.  Because what we all really need ishelp — real help getting our initiatives done.  If you can get one of my key initiatives done for me — not talked about, not analyzed, not discussed, butdone — you are a rockstar.

    2. Work in a hot or at least warm area of the company.

    No need to promote anyone in the EOL’d (End of Life)  products — though it does happen.

    3. Don’t schmooze.  Just engage and be positive and respectful.

    Schmoozing is a turn-off.  Instead, as you Demonstrate Leadership, also positively (never negatively) engage with your peers and colleagues outside of your small group.  Be critical as needed — but always positive.  Naked criticism will get you worse than nowhere, it will get you in the cellar.  Your peers’ feedback, even if just informal and word-of-mouth … is critical to your promotion.

    4. Don’t sell up. 

    Yes, I know selling up sometimes “works” in Big Companies, but it doesn’t really get you promoted  — and really it’s a sign you are weak.  Focus instead on selling down, and selling across.  On getting your colleagues to follow your ideas and insights.  That’s how you demonstrate true leadership.

    5. “Dress” for success.

    I don’t mean that completely literally (but yes, dress a little better than the rest, it can’t hurt).  I mean act and carry yourself like someone that cares.  That always goes the extra yard.  Never look at the carpet, or yawn.  Never be late to a meeting — ever.  Always be positive, give constructive feedback, but never destructive feedback.  Never be cocky, but be confident in what you know is correct.

    6. (Try) to Be Patient. 

    Even if you do everything right, there can only be so many promotions.  It may take another whole year.  This isn’t politics per se, but companies of any size have a finite number that can make.  Don’t give it more than one extra year, but assume it will take one more cycle than it should.

    7. Ask.

    Ask your boss how and what it will take to get promoted.  If you don’t ask, you probably won’t get.  Just be ready to get some tough feedback when you ask, and be ready to grow, change, and learn.

    8. Working Hard and Doing a Good Job Is Insufficient. 

    Again, promotion in Big Cos and tech companies of any scale is about leadership, and in many cases, management.  You’ll get well paid if you work hard and do a good job.  You just won’t get promoted all that far.
    Just my learnings / observations in the BigCo.  I’d say all but the second point also apply to start-ups too.

    I know some companies are much more fracked up than this.  But I think / hope maybe 50% of the well run ones work just this way.

    Featured photo credit: A girl with sunset on the mountain in silhouette via Shutterstock

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    Published on September 18, 2018

    17 Proven Tactics for Motivating Employees and Building a Stronger Team

    17 Proven Tactics for Motivating Employees and Building a Stronger Team

    Have there been instances when you noted a drop in your team’s productivity or observed a behavioral change in someone who used to be an excellent performer?

    Before you blame the team for not being motivated enough or worse still, choose to ignore these warning signs, look inwards and ask yourself if YOU are doing enough to keep your team motivated in the first place.

    Motivating employees is extremely crucial. As the leader of the pack, it is your responsibility to ensure each and every member of your team feels valued, driven and motivated.

    After all, you cannot expect a bunch of disengaged and demotivated people to deliver results and grow your business, can you?

    Here are 17 surefire tactics for motivating your employees and building a productive team:

    1. Show your appreciation

    In the whole race to achieve external business goals, leaders often forget to value their most important assets — their employees.

    The least you can do to boost performance and morale is to appreciate your employees, recognize their efforts and give them credit when it is due.

    Whether it’s sending a personalized note, recognizing achievements publicly during team huddles or even rewarding top performers at the end of every month, you will be surprised to see how these small acts of appreciation can go a long way.

    2. Communicate effectively

    Effective communication can do wonders in motivating employees. Who is a strong communicator? Someone who knows what they are talking about and are able to convey their message accurately.

    Communication is a lot more than just language and talking. Factors such as eye contact, active listening, hand gestures and postures also say a lot about a person’s communication skills.

    3. Be open to dialogue

    Gone are the days when leading through fear and putting on the tough, distant leader act would work.

    New age leadership is all about instilling trust by being accessible and encouraging discussions. Your team needs to feel comfortable speaking to you and you need to set the tone for such a camaraderie.

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    In spite of having a busy schedule, you can still show you care through simple, effective acts.

    For instance, having an open door policy, showing genuine interest while interacting with your employees or even greeting your team members helps breaking barriers and projects you as an accessible leader.

    4. Provide constructive criticism

    Giving negative feedback is always tricky — you don’t want to hurt feelings nor do you want the feedback to be taken lightly.

    So, what do you do? The idea is to offer criticism such that it inspires change and delivers results.

    Firstly, take criticism behind closed doors because nothing breaks self esteem the way calling out employees in public does.

    Have a one-on-one discussion with the concerned person and make your feedback very specific. Be clear about your expectations and offer guidance on how they can improve.

    Most importantly, give them the chance to explain their side of the story too instead of jumping to conclusions.

    5. Conduct one-on-ones

    Yes, you conduct weekly meetings with the team but how well do you know them on a personal level?

    While you may think this isn’t an important practice to follow, it is one of the best ways to engage with your employees and identify what drives them.

    Conduct a one-one-one session every month and use it to understand how your employees are doing and if they are facing any roadblocks.

    More than reviewing performances, consider this as a relationship building tool to ensure you are aligned with your team and are working towards a shared, common goal.

    6. Build training programs

    In this ever-changing business landscape, it is important to ensure your employees are updated with the latest, relevant skills that can help boost productivity and performance.

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    From imparting technical and soft skills to offering mentoring programs – investing in training and development significantly helps in motivating employees and keeps the learning going.

    While conducting training programs, remember to keep them engaging and interactive. They need to ultimately drive value and reinforce learnings.

    7. Offer growth opportunities

    Every employee envisions a different career path for themselves and demotivation strikes the day they feel they have reached stagnation. As a leader, you need to first be aligned with their goals and offer ample growth opportunities that constantly keeps them engaged and motivated.

    Growth opportunities go beyond just financial growth. While money is a huge driving factor, what makes most people tick is making progress in the company and going up the career ladder.

    Being faced with new challenges and responsibilities lets them push the envelope and broaden their knowledge and skills.

    8. Reward them

    Go beyond verbal recognition and reward employees for their notable work. You can start an incentive program and reward top performers. This ensures increased productivity and brings out the best in them.

    If you don’t have enough budgets for that, you can also reward top performers with movie tickets, a paid vacation or something as simple as giving them the option to work from home.

    Rewarding employees promotes healthy competition and motivates them while meeting business goals.

    9. Encourage team outings

    Employee motivation also stems from how connected the team is. Invest time in team building because a team that works collaboratively is likely to deliver better results.

    From bowling nights to hosting team dinners – team outings are a great way to get to know each other and bond. Assign someone from your team to be in charge of organizing these monthly outings and make sure you join them too!

    10. Involve them

    Involve your employees in decision making because when they are involved, they feel more valued and part of a larger cause.

    Seek your team’s opinion and encourage healthy debates within the team. This boosts employee morale and challenges them to work harder as they know they are in a position to make an impact and will be taken seriously.

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    11. Set meaningful goals

    In the beginning of the financial year, make sure you sit down with each employee to set meaningful and realistic goals. The goal-setting conversation is an extremely crucial one and needs to be a two-way street.

    Whether your employee feels burdened or doesn’t feel inspired enough by the assigned goals – this is the time to come to a consensus and assign goals derived from business objectives that foster individual development while keeping in mind their strengths and weaknesses.

    12. Empower them

    You cannot expect employees to be motivated for long if you micro manage the team and do all the talking.

    Trust your employees and empower them to take decisions. Mistakes will happen but that is the only way they will learn.

    Be open to discussions, delegate effectively, set your expectations and give your team the freedom to do it their way.

    13. Deal with conflict

    A conducive work environment is one wherein there is open communication and trust, but every once in a while, you do encounter people in the team who indulge in office politics and spread negativity.

    How much ever fulfilled an employee feels with their work, gossiping co-workers are bound to ruin it for them. Workplace gossip if not tackled hampers productivity and soils working relations.

    As a responsible leader, you need to maintain a conducive work environment and act as a mediator in such cases. Don’t be the leader who is locked up in his/her cabin and is unaware of what is brewing within the team.

    14. Implement a flexible work culture

    Flexible work cultures are a growing trend and are here to stay.

    Whether it is offering flexible working hours or allowing employees to work from home once in a month – a flexible work culture promotes work-life balance and aids in employee satisfaction.

    It shows that the management is sensitive to employees’ schedules and is thereby highly appreciated.

    15. Host engaging activities

    All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and we cannot agree more! So, why not devote one day of the week to employee engagement activities?

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    From hosting baking competitions to introducing wellness programs in the office – let your team have some fun beyond work. This keeps the environment engaging, light-hearted and interesting, giving them all the more reason to look forward to coming to work.

    16. Maintain a positive work space

    Your employees spend more than half their day at work and in order to keep them energized and motivated, it is important to maintain a positive and inspiring work space.

    Have a recreation center where employees can unwind after a hard day’s work, offer free snacks and beverages and invest in an open office design that promotes socializing and conversations.

    These are simple yet effective ways to create a space your employees will love coming to.

    17. Avoid discrimination

    Any kind of discrimination, be it due to age, gender, religion or race hugely impacts employee motivation and performance.

    In order to avoid such cases, you must lay down rules against discrimination and take strict action against accused employees. Lead by example and make sure no one in the team is a victim of bias and discrimination.

    The bottom line

    Don’t underestimate the power of motivating employees. Understand that the more engaged and motivated they are, the better their performance will be.

    It is also a good idea to send out a survey and get feedback from your employees on the company culture, work environment and their motivation levels.

    This will help you be more aligned with their expectations and further improve your efforts in building a stronger, engaged team.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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