Mission driven organizations sometimes frown upon self-promotion. I think it stems from our puritan/religious traditions that one is called to serve, not advanced through self-promotion. I’ve noticed this cultural trend over the years with several of our non-profit and healthcare organizations in particular. I recall how difficult it was for a coaching client from a non-profit healthcare company I’ll call “Andre” to get noticed for jobs he was qualified for. His ultimate goal was to run a hospital system.
What is your plan for promotion I asked: “prepare and wait to get tapped on the shoulder”, he said. Without sounding too much like Dr. Phil I responded, “How’s that working for you?” “Not so good.” Based on Andres’ experience, and many others like him, I developed these 5 steps for promoting one’s interest in career advancement without appearing greedy or unsatisfied with the current role.
1. Clarify your big idea. Leaders who have solve an important problem, improve a vital process or capitalize on an opportunity, quickly become noticed. Instead of selling management on why they should be promoted, they engage others around big ideas.
2. Know your C.O.P. This simple exercise has leaders list out their passions. Then they identify which of those passions are things they’re really good at. Lastly, that smaller list of skilled passions are aligned with key organizational needs. The C stand for “capabilities” (skills), O for “organizational needs”, and P for “passions”. Next, the leader Images three circles that slightly overlap, one being Capabilities, the other Organizational needs and the final Passions. The space where they all overlap is the leader’s sweet spot. This is a powerful tool to identify and share the value a leader brings to the organization, at the same time they’re doing what they love and are good at. Everyone wins.
3. Change your language from they to we. A Leader should raise up his or her head from the immediate responsibility they’ve being asked to deliver and think more broadly about the company. The moment they own up to the responsibility of talking about what “we can deliver” rather than just what “they in senior management can make happen for me”; and the sooner they own up to behaviors that characterize a leader, the sooner they’ll be viewed that way, and will be offered opportunities to expand their scope in the company.
4. Network outside your neighborhood. Malcolm Gladwell in Tipping Point and Frans Johansson in The Medici Effect descript the exponential power and influence one has when they expand and work their network, especially outside of their department. Being a network-hub builds influence. And when leaders connect to others outside their expertise encourages diversity of thought and innovation.
5. Show excellent EQ. Robert Bolton from Social Style / Management Styles says in a side by side study said the “Ability – or inability – to understand other people’s perspectives was the most glaring difference between the arrivers and the derailed.” And according to the grandfather of Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Golman, “EQ contributes to 80 – 90% of the competencies that distinguish outstanding leaders from average leaders.”
After working with Andres for a while, he was able to share a new and exciting idea for tracking patients’ prescription history to better match drugs to patient needs. He talked to leadership from the mindset of what “we can do” instead of what “they should provide” us. After doing the COP exercise, he starting networking outside his department, and even outside of this company. When asked he shared his COP Sweet Spot. Lastly, Andres was known to be intimidating due to his intense focus, even though close associates and friends knew him to be extremely kind and generous. Armed with this feedback he set out to build stronger relationships through a more relaxed manner. With these five steps Anton never promoted himself, and thus never got labeled a braggart or career climber. Instead, he promoted good ideas that benefited the company, expanded his network, changed his languages from “the” to “us” and improved his emotional intelligence.
A couple of months later he got offered a plumb job at another healthcare system, which lead to other promotions. Today, he is the number two leader in a major health system in the Midwest.