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Management Strategy: Promote Employees After They Step Up (Article)

Years of management have taught me that giving someone a job title or role before he is actually doing the job is a recipe for failure. I give out promotions as an acknowledgement that an employee has stepped up his role and responsibilities within the organization–not an incentive that gets him to step up.

As a Business Owner

In my work and on my radio show, I have the opportunity to interview hundreds of people a year about how they got their jobs or built their companies. All of them talk about “doing the job” long before receiving the title or the recognition. A common thread is that they worked with or for a mentor who allowed them to take risks and learn new skills. Most insist that without that guidance while working for someone else, they would not have been successful in their own ventures. When investors look at funding a company, the experience of the management team is one of the most important criteria they use.

In my own experience, I started my career at a support desk at IBM and have worked through a wide variety of jobs that give me a unique perspective on how companies operate. I was never “given” a title; I filled a void and was recognized afterward for my contribution.

As a Manager
Knowing when to promote is difficult to navigate in today’s multi-generational workforce. I have sat across from many younger workers new to the workforce that were in tears because I shared the truth that six months on the job didn’t earn a promotion. I’ve had similar conversations with seasoned workers who were not skilled at management. While being a strong contributor is appreciated and worth some share in the company’s fortunes, it’s not as valuable as those who can successfully delegate and direct the work of others.
As an Employee:
Don’t wait to be given the job you want. Start creating it today. If you ultimately want to be the boss or work for yourself, you will learn more by venturing out and making some self-directed mistakes (and successes). Take advantage of the safety of your job to take risks and reach for reward. Don’t be afraid to celebrate and point out your contributions in ways that will resonate with the company owners.
Did you improve the bottom line or contribute to the top? Tying a tangible return to your work makes it far easier to justify an increase in your title and compensation. If you thrive on constantly reaching for the next level but find the company you are working for doesn’t applaud this approach, you might want to start to look elsewhere.

The days of standard raises and title inflation based solely on a timeline are gone. The reality in today’s job market is that many eager candidates are willing to work hard, even at a reduced salary, to gain valuable experience that will pay off later. Start looking where you can work today for the job you want tomorrow.