THE BLOG
10/14/2014 10:42 am ET Updated Dec 14, 2014

The Power of Yes: Getting That Promotion

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How many of us wonder why "Joe" got his second promotion in as many years, while "Jim" has been waiting for his first one in five years? They are both equally qualified, and in fact, Jim is extremely well liked by both his team and leadership. Everyone agrees that he should be considered when promotions come up, and yet Joe, the guy who is not as well liked and who many people think is an "in your face" sort of personality that always volunteers and takes on more and more, has gotten the last two. Is there something that Joe is doing that Jim should be learning from?

The short answer is probably.

In today's workplace culture, promotions are most often reserved for the employee who best models what the company values in its staff. While many employees do fine work, exceeding expectations in one's day-to-day activities is not enough to get ahead. Rather, those who capture promotions are driven internally to strive for more. In doing so, their actions can be simply summarized in these six points below.

1. They are risk takers who question the norm. Never satisfied with status quo, these risk takers are constantly looking for ways to improve things. Boundaries are meaningless because they serve only as artificial constraints. Instead, these persons look for ways to shift boundaries and improve results. They help drive business forward by working with others to remove constraints, and then turn their attention and focus to achieve improved results.

2. They focus on "doing the right things" rather than "doing things right." This comes back to the discussion of importance versus impact. Taking on projects and/or tasks that have a higher impact to the business are more valuable than achieving tasks that are important, but are relatively low impact. Leaders look for persons who are like themselves, can prioritize their activities and help to achieve goals with the highest impact first.

3. They never say "no" to an opportunity. When asked to take on a special project for his boss, Jim's mind immediately went to the commitments that he has outside of work. Knowing that the project would require him to give up a few hours of personal time for the next couple of weeks made Jim uncomfortable, and so he declined the project. Joe on the other hand, also had commitments, but when given the opportunity, he jumped at the chance to do more. Realizing that he too would have to give up some personal time, he saw the opportunity, and found ways to shift his commitments so that he was able to take on the extra project and still meet his other obligations.

4. They leave their comfort zone. Leaders look for people who can navigate through unfamiliar territory to accomplish their objectives. These persons will sit down and think through the problem, and then validate their thoughts with other team members before they implement. They get the value of additional experiences and the opportunity to learn how to be uncomfortable while still succeeding.

5. They communicate their goal of being promoted. Leaders want to be able to depend on their staff. Knowing that someone has a goal of being promoted presents the opportunity to have an open dialog about career planning and progression. Both the employee and the leader can discuss openly what is needed for promotional eligibility and keeps the door open to check in on progress toward the goal at regular intervals.

6. They create relationships with their "new" peer group. There is nothing better when grooming yourself for a promotion than to be seen as a peer to the others at the level you endeavor to rise to. One of the first goals I give to anyone who wants to promote to the next level is to find someone who is there already and learn what is expected of them. Then, grow an internal network of persons who are currently in the desired role (i.e., moving from a lead role to a manager role). If you are seen as a peer within this group, it's an easy leap for leadership to place you there.

People who are recognized and promoted are those who make an effort, and stand out in their organization. They are go-getters who are fearless in taking on a new challenge, and they constantly challenge the status quo. They leverage the resources around them effectively, and most importantly, they never say "no." These traits all work together to create opportunities to say "Yes" to taking on more responsibility and getting that coveted promotion.

If you have any questions or would like to further discuss, please don't hesitate to contact me via email at pamlyra00@gmail.com - happy to continue the conversation.

Pam Lyra, Axcient VP of customer satisfaction and operations, has more than 20 years of experience motivating and leading teams.