Not getting promoted? Here’s why.Featured

You’re hitting your metrics consistently and your team is happy, but you’re not getting promoted.

What gives?

The fact is you’re doing exactly what you’ve been asked to do, and you’re doing it well, and unfortunately, that’s the reason you’re not getting promoted.

Doing exactly what you’ve been asked to do is simply fulfilling your job duties. It’s great to consistently hit your numbers, but – and here’s the important part – it doesn’t justify a promotion.

The gap between middle and senior management is a ‘chasm’, because more people get stuck here than at any other point in their career. Early in your career, it’s all about executing on your goals and exceeding your targets. Do that well, and there’s a good chance you’ll get promoted to the Manager level. Then you become a Manager, and execute the same playbook. Suddenly, it’s not enough for that next promotion.

So, how do you know if this is what’s happening to you?

Here are some great questions to ask yourself if you’re feeling stuck. Remember to be brutally honest with yourself when answering them:

  1. Am I going above and beyond, or just executing really well at the job I’ve been given?
  2. How often do I take initiative with a new idea or problem vs. asking my boss for the solution?
  3. When was the last time I brought a great new insight to the table that helped shape our strategy?

If you’re answering ‘not very often’ to all 3 of these, you now know why you haven’t received that promotion.

To get to the next level, you need to show your boss and leadership that you can do more. That you’re capable of executing a new playbook. You need to go from tactical execution to strategic thinking.

That is the chasm.

The good news is, if you want to cross the chasm and move into senior leadership, this is absolutely learnable. It takes investing in yourself and becoming more self-aware.

So, where can you start?

There are 4 changes you can make that each have a significant impact on how you show up at work:

  1. Taking more initiative and presenting your ideas with confidence
  2. Learning how to bring valuable business insights to the table
  3. Effectively communicating your ideas to leadership
  4. Broadening your thinking to consider the bigger picture

These may sound like big changes, but the truth is once you wrap your head around them, they really aren’t all that difficult. They just take practice and commitment.

There are 2 practices that will have a disproportionate impact on developing the skills I mentioned above.

The first is carving out deep work time to really think about the problems of the business and how you can help solve them. Too many new managers spend their time running meeting to meeting and executing on busy work. This is not going to get you promoted.

Instead, carve out a 2hr block once a week. During this time you may go deep on some recent metrics, or consider what needs to change in order to meet strategic initiatives.

You can also use this time to properly prepare for meetings with your manager where you’ll be pitching your ideas or sharing insights. Taking the time to prepare will increase the probability you’re successful.

The second is getting into the habit of asking yourself powerful questions. Here are some to get you started:

  • What’s the goal?
  • What’s the big picture?
  • What has been successful in the past, or for others?
  • What’s the one thing we can do that will really move the needle?

During your deep work time block, these questions can prompt you to start thinking about the right things.

Remember, leadership doesn’t have to be an elusive club that only the unicorn can join. Investing in your own development and focusing on bringing more value to the business will help you cross that chasm and finally land that next promotion!

Thank you for sharing this. Just what I needed to read today. Going through the appraisal cycle at my company and I know that while I have done good, I haven’t done out of the box stuff. I need to make room for more strategising / experimenting versus doing.
Oh, there are MANY other reasons why you're not getting promoted, and most of them have nothing at all to do with your initiative or ideas. If we were in pre-Covid times, all of this makes sense, but we're just no longer there. Between the large numbers of layoffs, uncertainty in the economy, companies retrenching (cutting costs) and reprioritizing, if you're not getting promoted right now, it may not have anything to do with your abilities. On top of the fact that this kind of environment creates so much mistrust and competition between co-workers, and leadership's favorites become even more apparent. Company culture suffers, which then dries up good/new ideas, and initiative is not rewarded. What then happens, people start looking elsewhere for better opportunities where they CAN have impact, but because of the current environment, there's not much available. This is when you buckle down and get through your current situation as best you can, while staying on the lookout for the next opportunity. Reconnect with past co-workers at companies you're interested in, and let them know you're looking. Connect with people on other teams in your company to learn more about other areas. And find outlets outside of work that give you some fulfillment.Know your strengths and your value, and let that fuel confidence in yourself.
There’s so much here that I agree with and in a perfect world, yes, that would be the case. But we all know that politics (who you know and who the favorites are) can impact promotions. Also, how loud and self-promoting you are also factors in. I don’t want to sound overly-critical but I have watched many times as the loudest sycophants or those who hurt/maim/stomp on others get promoted. That’s why paying attention to culture and alignment of values also plays a critical role. If you’re in a company culture that rewards bad, sycophantic or backstabbing behavior, you will never get promoted unless you play the game.
I agree with you. A guy joined the company two months ago and I was asked to help him get up to speed, which I did with pleasure. We were both supposed to build our teams, separately. He saw an opportunity to quickly augment his team by incorporating mine, played the cards and my team was moved under his. Essentially a demotion for me. I’ve been there two and one half years. I think being a woman, with an accent, didn’t help my case. You can draw conclusions on how I feel..