5 Behaviors That Keep You From Getting Promoted

I run into them in every company I work with. Solid managers with real contributions. They work hard, they’re incredibly loyal, and they’ve been on the succession planning list forever. Much of the time they even have an MBA…AND they’re stuck. The promotions come and go. They’ve heard the pep talk so many times they can recite it in their sleep.

5 Behaviors That Keep You From Getting Promoted

Of course, there’s no easy way to know what’s holding any individual back. But I’ve done enough diagnosing, supporting, and helping to transform careers over the years that I’ve seen some consistent patterns. Don’t get stuck in these common traps.

  1. Relentless Self Promotion
    The minute people begin to think you’re more interested in your career than the organization’s mission you’re sunk. Do great work, find a sponsor, and stop tooting your own horn.
  2. Non Stop Energy
    Everyone loves a go-getter, do-it-all-fast kind of guy–at the frontline and middle manager level. But the time I spend in the C-Suites across a variety of industries reinforces what I’ve believed for a long time. Energy and intensity are great, but if you want to play with the big guys project an aura of calm, cool-headed control.
  3. Keeping Your Head Down
    You’re so focused on your team and your team’s results you miss the bigger picture. Work on strengthening your peripheral vision.
  4. Competing With Peers
    Real leadership takes more than being consistently at the top of the stack rank. Winning Well leaders know the important balance of results AND relationships. If it’s unlikely your peers will want to crack open some bubbly with you when you get that big promotion, chances are you may never get the chance to know.
  5. Inability to Let it Go
    Tenacity is one thing. But as they say, when the horse is dead, get off. Sometimes the answer is no, and you need to let it go. Winning Well leaders learn when to keep trying and when it’s time to move on (at least for the time being).

The Inspiration For This Post

One of my favorite clients has been using my Results That Last: 7 Roles Every Manager Must Master  program as the foundation for his mentoring circle work. Each week, they go through one module together, discuss the content and tools, and then they each go off and do the exercise with their teams before meeting again to review the next module.

Sometimes he brings in internal executives as guest speakers who are particularly good in the role they will be discussing that day. He’s also doing the 360 degree feedback tool twice, once at the beginning and once at the end of the program. I love the approach, and he’s seen a significant lift in business metrics. (If you want to learn more how you can use the course in this way, or other creative approaches, please call me on 443.750.1249.)

 As various questions comes up, he’s been batting them my way for additional perspective. I was intrigued by the one that came up last week.

 If we were coaching a person that has been a supervisor or leader for 10 plus years … What has held them back?  What characteristics have they been missing or overlooked? What haven’t they done that others have?  (The road map is not paved or golden? Or is it?)

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Because You Know Better

I was pretty shocked by the reports of how Laura had acted in that impromptu encounter.  Clearly I had to address the “rude and snarky attitude” but first I had to understand it. “Can you tell me what happened?” I asked, praying for an explanation.

And there it was in all the glory– the rest of the story. Snarky didn’t come out of nowhere. Stupid behavior seldom does. More often one misstep triggers another and the dance begins. Unproductive at best. But even more tricky if when the music stops you’re the one caught singing off-beat.

And so I told her my story straight off the “Karin Hurt’s worst leadership moments” highlights reel (you can stop now, it’s not searchable on YouTube).

It was after a long day, long month, long quarter. We were both were tired. Trust was low between our departments– and competition was high–a terrible cocktail. And then her ugliness hit me right in my weak spot. I was convinced she was discriminating against one of my top guys. Perhaps she was, perhaps she wasn’t (he’s later proved himself as rock star… just saying).

What I do know for sure is that my rage had me operating out of the wrong side of my brain. I listened to the spewing stupidity and responded completely unelegantly and threw in a bad word (okay, maybe two)– right in front of HR. Poor choice. The aftermath was ugly.

When debriefing the situation with a close colleague, he told me a story that has stayed with me for years.

“Karin, when I was little, I was one of the few minorities in a primarily white school. I was picked on (they’d probably call that bullying now). These kids would rile me up to the point that I would feel like I had to defend myself, and I’d end up being the one sitting in the principal’s office. Because– I threw the first punch. You lose all ability to defend your position when you’re the guy with blood on your hands.”

Yup. No matter what was right or what was wrong, I was the screamer with the bad words.

It’s easy to justify our less than elegant leadership behavior (to ourselves) because someone else “started it.”

Always remember their behavior is entirely beside the point.

Lead elegantly, and the turkeys will lose their steam.