If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to move up the ladder at your current company, you may be planning how to grab that promotion. While the traits that companies value most haven’t changed dramatically, the challenge is that it’s harder for leaders to get to those touch points when they’re not seeing you as frequently as they did in the past, says Martin G. Moore, author of No Bullsh!t Leadership.
“Every time you open your mouth or do something in an organizational context, it’s actually a job interview,” he says. “Other people are seeing and watching and observing. Now you have fewer opportunities to do that, and Zoom is not a good medium for it, which is what’s going to make it more difficult going forward. You have to actually plan and structure the interactions you have with senior people in your organization to make sure you’re in the line of sight.”
As you get in front of your boss, Moore says common traits they’ll want to see, are things like learning from your mistakes, and being willing to take on tougher and tougher challenges.
“Nothing speaks louder than results,” he says. “They get attention. Leadership sees that you have a certain work ethic, a certain way of doing things, a certain level of resilience, a certain level of maturity.”
Unfortunately, these traits are not enough to get you promoted because every ambitious person works hard. To put yourself first in line for a promotion, Moore says you must avoid two common mistakes that actually sound like best practices.
Don’t be Irreplaceable
Once you’re on the radar by demonstrating results, you also need to show that you can build capability in others. While everyone wants to feel indispensable, it is a bad idea, says Moore. Instead, his counterintuitive advice is to demonstrate that you’re redundant.
“If I’m doing my team’s work, they can’t function without me,” he says. “Then why would they move me anywhere else? I’m critical to the functioning of that team.”
Being redundant means that you understand risk, adds Moore. “If you get hit by a bus or a COVID variant or whatever else, you’ve got to show that your team can go on in the organization,” he explains. “The concept of striving to make yourself redundant so that the team can function without you is a key concept.”
Instead, show that you are a leader by avoiding the next mistake.
Don’t Work Too Hard
Ambitious people tend to be workhorses, putting in long hours and delivering against all odds. When others around them, such as coworkers or their own teams, don’t carry their own weight, ambitious people are tempted to jump in and do the work themselves. To be promotable, however, you’ve got to resist this urge, otherwise you will cap yourself at a certain level, says Moore.
“Rather than stepping in, rolling up your sleeves, and solving someone else’s problems to show them how much you know, stay in your role,” he says. “Coach and mentor those people so that they develop and fill that vacuum. Because at some point in time, they’ve got to be able to do that job and do it to the standards that you set.”
It can be tempting to shy away from these conversations because it feels easier to fix the problem in the moment, but Moore says that comes with the risk that you’ll be doing someone else’s work in the long term or that you’ll need to find someone else who can perform.
“And instead of being a workhorse, strive to be a trusted advisor,” says Moore. “You end up with people who are functioning at a much higher level themselves and are much more capable than they would have been otherwise if you just done the work for them,”
Being promotable means looking at the world from your boss’s level so you can contribute to their success. It’s metaphorically dressing for the job you want instead of the one you have, explains Moore.
“We think that we think that hard work and being indispensable to our team will get us somewhere,” he says. “The truth is that it’s almost the opposite of those things. What makes you promotable is developing the next line of leaders underneath you that are going to come through and be the next promotion points. It’s really about building the organizational talent pipeline.”