How to Earn a Promotion: Part 1 of 4
Ask someone you work with if they are interested in a promotion and they are likely to say yes. Ask why and eventually they will confess they want more money. Now ask yourself if you want to be promoted. If you said no, we invite you to go peruse the many other interesting articles on the site; this is for people motivated to change the world – at least their place in it. If you said yes, ask yourself why you want to be promoted. If your answer is money, you are likely to experience great disappointment. Money is a powerful motivator when you desperately need it. If you have enough to maintain your current level of comfort, you are not desperate. Money is a means without a known end and its lack of intrinsic value distorts our perception. You cannot change the world in pursuit of money.
A promotion is much more than a new job with a higher annual wage. The pursuit of promotion is the pursuit of power. Power is the ability to dictate the terms of your own existence while enhancing the experience of your fellow man. You want power because you want to have a greater sphere of influence on the world you exist in. The money is nice, but secondary. We are going to work, not the mall.
If you are ready to seriously begin thinking about advancing your career, seizing control over your life, staking your reputation and fortunes to the performance of your company, and dictating the terms of success, welcome to the Dignified Devil.
Part I: Preparation
This is not a self-help manual so if you are struggling to be motivated at work, find yourself failing at your current job, feel depressed, need to lose weight, have an addiction problem, want to get rich quick, cannot maintain an erection, want to earn a degree online…we suggest you look elsewhere.
If you are looking to raise your status, impress your supervisors, earn a promotion, and achieve success, we are here to help you. Conventional wisdom is conventionally boring. We offer a radical departure from the mundane checklists of personal inventory and positive meta-speak.
You must compete to earn things of value. Getting a promotion means defeating other competitors for the prize. Winning is about preparation, knowledge, developing strategies, and implementing well-conceived plans. Preparing to be promoted begins with gathering intelligence, so we went to the authority: the Central Intelligence Agency.
Modeling our classification and organization of information on the CIA country profiles found in the CIA Fact Book, we offer a systematic approach to accumulating the information you will need to develop a highly nuanced and programmatic understanding of how the company you work for operates in 8 critical areas. Armed with this knowledge, you will dramatically change your perspective and develop a worldview befitting a future senior executive.
Physical location and boundaries between organizational units can reveal how a particular department, business, function, or unit is valued within the larger corporate framework. Proximity to senior leadership does not always correlate with relative importance, but close physical presence with executive management increases your opportunities for direct contact and exposure. Study your company’s geography and maximize access to the decision-makers. Decode the lines of power within your business by mapping out the physical landscape and strategically place yourself where power is concentrated. The physical terrain cannot be modified to suit your needs so familiarity with the natural advantages and disadvantages, and the flexibility to exploit them, is a powerful asset. Know your battlefield and position yourself for success.
Organizations are run by people. While everyone works within the framework of rules, regulations, and policies, the individual characteristics of the people implementing the policies matter a great deal. Create a profile for key figures in your organization. There are no insignificant details. If you do not have a great memory for personal details, write them down. The ability to recall the names of spouses, children, dogs, parents – anyone of personal importance – is incredibly useful in social situations, providing the dual benefit of convincing others you are genuinely interested in who they are (beyond their job title) and fodder for polite chatter in various social situations. This information also reveals something of a person’s character – what matters to them, what does not, how they prioritize, and who they turn to for counsel. Armed with an intimate knowledge of the people you are working for and with, you can manipulate feelings and attitudes towards your own best interests. Know your friends and enemies.
Having identified where the seats of power lie and who occupies them, your next objective is to understand how power is exercised. The official rules and policies are easy to acquire, but generally written to be so broad and non-specific they are subject to significant differences in interpretation and implementation. You must decipher how those rules and policies have been enforced by individuals and business units over time, in real world application. Begin by creating a diagram of lines of authority, a hierarchy of corporate governance. Once you have identified how power is organized, diagram the influence of individuals within each unit according to their range and ability to exercise power. The crude but accurate maxim, follow the money, will guide you. Ultimately the power has to translate into dollars. If a business unit is not controlling or generating money, its power is limited. Even in government and non-profit organizations, the money (or ability to spend it) is paramount. Salaries, budgets, and appropriations are clear indicators of influence and power. Observe how they are used. Know how power is exercised.
Your company operates within a much larger financial world. No business is an island and understanding how your business is impacted by regional, national, and global influencers is critical to pro-actively managing your career. Identify your company’s strengths and weaknesses within its market. Determine where the greatest threats to the financial health of your company lie. Categorize the level of risk each department is exposed to. Study trends and understand how events beyond the control of the company influence its actions. Start making predictions and refine your ability to anticipate corporate strategies and shifts in philosophy. Find out who is invested in your company and who is invested in its failure. Be intimately acquainted with the customer base and how the business is perceived in the market. Measure the financial strength of your company and always know the current value. Know the business’ economic outlook.
Knowledge must be applied to generate value. Communications encompass all forms of information transfer between people. Every time we speak, write, gesture, look, move, or do absolutely nothing within view of someone else we are communicating a message. Whether the message is perceived or ignored is secondary to the fact, information was made available. Learn to control and exploit communication. Determine how pertinent individuals tend to prefer to receive messages and how they react to different forms of communication. Control their reactions by drawing their attention in ways most beneficial to your cause. Learn to disguise negative information and spotlight positive accolades. Keep valuable and proprietary information a secret; be tactful in spreading useless or misleading information – when in doubt, never willfully spread false information. Never allow your emotions to betray your professional posture. Position yourself as a confidant of others so they will divulge their secrets to you. Know how to dictate the terms of information exchange.
Transportation is as much about the ability to move as the inability to move. Freedom is the ability to move. Without movement we stagnate, grow stale and decrepit. Ideas suffer the same fate where they are constrained. Understand how people and ideas move across department lines, through ranks of authority, and gain access to areas where they are most useful. Learn how transportation works in your company and work to maintain its availability to you. Never intentionally eliminate paths of movement between organizations within your company. Learn the names and personalities of the people who control movement. Be ready and willing to move laterally when you encounter insurmountable obstacles to your forward progression. Know how movement works and be ready to move when the necessity arises.
Security is a fundamental necessity for any competitive enterprise. Society tends to view security as crude and unrefined so we creatively mask and conceal it. We begin to take it for granted and forget how it operates. As employees, we feel our security interests are aligned with the company’s and rely exclusively on their provision. This is naïve. You are both a producer and a product, and you are responsible for safeguarding your own value. Your ideas and creativity are the currency you are trading for your salary. Be mindful of how you secure ideas against theft and loss. Learn how your company protects vital information and be vigilant in protecting its interests. Know how your company defends itself against security risks; take measures to secure your own assets.
Your company is a global citizen in a world where traditional borders are blurry at best. Conflicts between rival businesses, rival executives, competing vendors, potential clients, and political interests create opportunities for loss, devaluation, and brand degradation; they also create opportunities for growth, expansion, and power accumulation. Personal relationships are analogous and offer the same opportunities. Become a global citizen in your market. Network beyond the walls of your company and build a reputation in your industry. Learn to market yourself and create a respected brand. Be aware of events beyond the scope of your industry and how they interact with your business. Know the world; cultivate a sophisticated perspective.
When you can intelligently address these 8 characteristics of your company, you are ready to intelligently discuss high-stakes decisions, implement strategic plans, lead functional teams, and produce significant results within a broader framework. Unburdened by a myopic, uninformed worldview, you will clearly see emerging trends and be postured to innovate before your peers and competitors. You will be prepared to share ideas and criticisms with senior leaders and position yourself as a respected advisor. Put this knowledge to practice and start producing results in your current role and you will be performing well beyond the range of your job title and distinguishing yourself as a top performer.
+++In Part 2 we will discuss how to turn your new-found notoriety and enhanced skill set into a coherent, polished personal brand. You are one step closer to being the person you think you already are. +++ Related Links: The Business Man’s Handbook: How to Earn a Promotion - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4