People promote people.
When the decision about your career will be made, you won’t be in the room.
The next best thing? Have advocates who are ready to go to bat for you and fight for your promotion.
But how do you identify the right people, and how do you turn them into raving fans?
That’s exactly what we are going to cover today.
Find the right stakeholders
You already have a full-time job and a promotion to plan. You can’t afford to waste time on random networking. You need to map out the right stakeholders and spend all of your time and effort on them.
The most important stakeholder, the one that can make or break your career is your manager.
Your manager has the most visibility to your work, they know you and your capabilities, and they are the gatekeeper to your next promotion. The best thing you can do for your career is to build trust and rapport with your manager (like I did with my manager from Microsoft in the pic above).
That means learning how to manage up.
But who else may have a say in your promotion? The answer may differ from company to company depending on the hiring committee, but your goal is to identify the individuals who can impact your promotion decision. Senior leaders, cross-functional colleagues, and sometimes the CEO. Ask yourself:
Who can veto my promotion?
Who needs to sign off on it?
And lastly, you want to identify team members (direct reports) and colleagues who can influence the decision. They may not be in the room, but your decision-makers may interview them or ask for their feedback to learn more about you. Your goal is to end up with a list of 5-7 people you’ll need to build relationships with and nurture.
Manage the relationship to build trust and rapport
This is where most people get stuck because they have no idea what it means to “manage the relationship”. So let’s go back to the goal. Your goal is to build trust and rapport. You want your stakeholders to get to know you, like you, and believe you deserve a promotion. And if that’s your goal you’ll need to do a few things:
Get acquainted as humans. Forget about work and just get to know your stakeholders as people.
Build rapport by saying what you’ll do and doing what you say.
Add value by helping them solve their own problems.
If you can strategically plan and achieve all of the above you will have successfully managed the relationship. (I like to use a spreadsheet to do this so I can keep track and stay consistent).
Make it easy for them to advocate for you
Last but not least, you want to make sure when the time comes your advocates will be ready, able, and willing to support you. There are 2 things you need to do in order to get their support:
Let them know you need them to advocate for you. Tell them you are applying for a promotion and you would appreciate their support.
Make it easy for them to advocate for you. Share your business case, summarize your achievements or tell them what you need them to highlight when they are asked about your promotion. People are lazy, the easier it will be to help, the more likely they would be to do it.
You may be tempted to skip this step. After all, you’ve built a relationship for months, these people know you and respect you, isn’t it obvious they’ll support you? Ahh… no it is not. Most people don’t spend their days thinking about you and your career goals. Some executives are so busy they have no idea they which meeting they are stepping into until they are actually in the room. The last thing you want is for your hard work to go down the drain because an executive was caught off gourd and couldn’t remember if you are a good leader. Reaching out and asking for support is how you make sure there are no surprises.
Create an advocacy flywheel that works for you
People promote people. If you do your job well and build the relationships you need early, you’ll have an advocacy flywheel that will work even when you sleep. These relationships will not only help you with your next promotion but also the one after that and the one after that. I got both of my VP roles by cultivating relationships with the right stakeholders before I needed them, so when the time was right they advocated for me and opened doors. If you want to get promoted in 2023 build relationships early. I believe in you and I’m rooting for you.