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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).

get promoted 2

    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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    Hoi Wan

    Hoi is a mobilist who blogs about technology trends and productivity.

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    Last Updated on November 19, 2019

    Work Smarter, Not Harder: 12 Ways to Work Smart

    Work Smarter, Not Harder: 12 Ways to Work Smart

    I imagine that like me, you say that you never have enough time and that you just cannot cope with 60 dozen things all at once.

    How on earth do you get out of that spiral?

    Many people never sit down and look at how to work smarter, rather than harder and even longer hours. But not you, you’re smart enough to try to learn effective ways to work.

    So how to work smarter not harder? Here are 12 smart ways you should be following:

    1. Improve Your Time Management Skills

    Easier said than done? Well, no actually, because there are a few simple rules that can really help you to manage time better.

    For example, when setting up a top priority task, you need to switch off the phone and ignore your email first. Then you need to abandon any ideas of multitasking as that will slow you down and ruin your focus.

    Finally, set a reasonable deadline and do everything in your power to meet it.

    “When you’re born, you’re born with 30,000 days. That’s it. The best strategic planning I can give to you is to think about that.” — Sir Ray Avery

    2. Speed up Your Typing and Use Shortcuts

    These days we’re all keyboard slaves. So why not speed up your typing and try to get rid of the two finger syndrome. In fact, when you save 21 days per year just by typing fast!

    This is exactly what I am doing now, so I cannot honestly say I am practicing what I preach!

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    But help is at hand. Try some of these apps and games to help you type fast: 8 Most Effective Games and Apps to Learn to Type Fast

    Using shortcuts on the keyboard is another time saver and can speed up your work.

    For example, press F2 to rename a selected file, while CTRL + I will put selected text in italics.

    There are so many of these. If you make the effort to learn them, they really can be helpful.

    3. Learn How to Use Productivity Tools

    It is well worth downloading all the useful tools and apps that can highly boost your productivity. Take a look at these 18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools and install whatever fits your needs.

    Now that is really a great way of working smarter, not harder.

    4. Use Your Phone Wisely

    Instead of writing emails, sometimes it’s better to pick up the phone and talk to the person responsible. It saves time, especially for important or urgent discussions.

    If that colleague works in the same office, it is even better to go and talk to him or her. It gives you a break, you get some exercise and you actually make human contact which is becoming quite rare in this electronic world.

    5. Keep a Tab on Your Tabs

    If you are like me, you might well find that you have a ton of tabs open at the top of your browser.

    In order to find the one you want, you have to search for them as they are off screen. Having all these tabs open slows down your browser too.

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    One solution is to use OneTab which can keep a neat list on the screen of all these tabs when you want to quickly get to one of them or you want to remind yourself which ones you have open.

    6. Use a “To Don’t” List

    We all know about to do lists and I find that they are generally great. They give me a great sense of achievement as I cross off the tasks done.

    But often, I find that we are doing non-essential tasks or ones that can easily be postponed. That is why many people recommend the to don’t list.[1]

    Some people prefer to savagely prune the to do list while others prefer to have two separate lists, to do and to don’t. You just have to work out what works best for you when you are trying to save precious time to become more productive.

    7. Expect Failure and Fight Paranoia

    When failure rears its ugly head, some people get a bit paranoid and fear that this may become a trend.

    Projects will go wrong and failure should be expected rather than feared. Learning lessons from failure and analyzing what went wrong is the best way forward.

    “Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again.” — Richard Branson

    And here you can find 10 Great Lessons Highly Successful People Have Learned From Failure.

    8. Be Concise

    Rambling on at meetings, in emails and even when introducing yourself to new clients can waste a lot of people’s time.

    One way is to practice and sharpen your “elevator speech,”[2] which tells people in 30 seconds or less why they need your skills and how they can benefit from doing business with you.

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    Just think of the many situations where this could be useful:

    • Making new contacts
    • Talking about yourself at a job interview
    • Meeting people at conferences or parties
    • Phone calls to new clients

    9. Ask the Right Questions

    “You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” — Naguib Mahfouz

    How do you get feedback? The secret is to ask the right questions at the right time.

    When you do this, you are gathering the information you need to help in decision making. This will save you time and you will be able to cut meetings to a minimum.

    Forbes magazine reports on research that they carried out on asking the right questions.[3] When that happens, the positive effects are increased by 400%. There are also other benefits in staff motivation and a positive impact on the company’s bottom line.

    Lifehack’s CEO Leon has shared about how to ask for feedback to learn faster: How to Learn Quickly And Master Any Skill You Want

    10. Learn as Much as You Can

    You should always be on a steep learning curve. Look at your skills profile and determine where you need to fill a gap. Talk to important connections and network in your niche.

    Keep up to date on trends and developments. It is a fact-changing world. When an opportunity arises, you will be the best equipped to seize it because you have never stopped learning. Just another way of working smarter.

    “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” — Mahatma Gandhi

    11. Look After Your Greatest Resource

    No, your greatest resource is not time. It is YOU.

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    If you do not get enough sleep, exercise and relaxation, you find that you become less and less productive. You begin to work longer and longer hours, which is the exact opposite of what you want.

    What you should be doing is making sure you are in the best shape. It is useful to remember that you need a break of 15 minutes after every one and a half hours of work.[4]

    Taking breaks and getting fresh air and exercise is one of the best ways of working smarter, not harder.

    12. Don’t Fall into the Trap of Working Smarter and Harder

    As a society, we are obsessed with doing everything smarter so we are more efficient and we save time all around.[5]

    But the most important thing to remember is to accept when we are ready to switch off that computer and not fill up the time with even more work!

    The Bottom Line

    The key to greater productivity is to work smarter, not harder. Working smarter saves precious time and energy for the things that really matter — your life goals, your personal growth, your health and your relationships.

    Stop working for more hours and start working smarter!

    More About Working Smart

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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