Why some managers get promoted over others

I’m sure you’ve seen it, maybe even experienced it yourself. Some managers seem to get the promotions and others do not, even though they work very hard and are extremely conscientious about managing technology resources effectively. This happens for technology employees as well, , ,  some get the nod and others do not.

If you are interested in what’s going on read the rest of the article. I’m going to give you a senior management perspective that can help you in your management career.

As a CIO or executive of a company, we want to promote from within as much as possible. Promotions are encouraging to our employees and to be quite frank, we like taking care of our own when they do a good job for us. Unfortunately, we often can’t promote from within our company and must go outside to find the resource required to do a certain job.

I believe there are several important issues that position you for a promotion. This applies to technical employees as well as IT managers.

First – you must be promotion material
This means two things. You have to have done a good job in the position you are in and we must be able to backfill your position when you are promoted. In addition, you need to be right for the job in question. Let’s break each of these aspects down a bit and explain.

Job performance – This is a no-brainer. To be promotion material, you need to be excellent at what you are doing. As a senior manager, I want to promote the top 10 to 20 percent who I think will be able to rise to the occasion when confronted to the bigger challenges and issues of the new position. Job performance is a key factor we look for when determining whether someone should be promoted and can handle the next level position. Simply put, we promote the best we have, not average or poor performers.

Backfill your position – Being promoted is going to create a gap in your current area of responsibility.  Your position will most likely need to be backfilled. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in senior management meetings to discuss the needs of a new position of a growth company and not be able to promote from within. When looking through our organization, we had people who had shown the performance to make them a good candidate for the higher role but when looking at how we would fill the gap created by promoting them, we had to back off making them the offer because there was no one to fill their position. Many times we had to go outside when we had a great internal candidate, but losing them in their current position was too big a risk.

A management-101 principle is that you need to find a way to position someone to take your place. Having the skill and experience isn’t enough; you need to be able to backfill your position so business continues to run smoothly, , , so star investing in someone to take your place one day.

Right for the position – I had a great employee in my Help Desk organization many years ago. As we grew, we eventually had the need for a new Help Desk Manager in our high growth company. My employee had very good management potential but because we were growing so fast I decided to hire someone from outside the company who already had management experience and in scaling up the Help desk services and resources of a fast growth company. My employee was pretty upset initially, but I explained to him that promoting him to this particular management position too early would potentially run over him as fast as we were growing. I convinced him that he would become a much stronger manager by learning from a seasoned Help Desk Manager who had already experienced what our company was going through. I also committed to invest in developing his management skills to position him for a management role in the future. This employee became a very strong IT manager and CIO in his own right in later years. Had I put him into a situation that he was not ready for and if we couldn’t support him properly, I could have ruined his management career.

Proven track record
You have to have a proven track record of success. As a manager, you have to deliver tangible results. The same is true as an IT employee. Not only is it important that you achieve quantifiable results, much of whether you are promotion material is about how you go about getting the results. For example, as an IT manager your efforts need to be in sync with your client and they agree that you have done a good job for them.

For IT employees and IT managers, it’s imperative that you exhibit strong teamwork as you work with your peers and others in accomplishing your job. We don’t just look at your technical skills when determining if you should be promoted or not. People who work well with others in a cooperative spirit and foster a win-win environment are those we want in senior level leadership positions.

So, what this means is that regardless of your position you should pay attention to the track record you are creating. IT has a poor reputation for delivering projects with some studies suggesting that 70% of all IT projects fail. Put yourself in the 30% success group and keep track of your successes. You may find that people, especially senior managers start looking at you differently. We promote the people who we trust will be able to do the job, , ,  and your past track record is a good indicator of what the future should look like.

Deliver what you say you will deliver
Sounds pretty simple, but you might be surprised at how many people promise something but don’t come close to delivering it. One very simple aspect of this is to follow-up on your commitments. Whether you are the CIO or a Desktop Support Technician, it’s imperative that you follow-up on any commitment to someone.

What often happens is that we see something that will improve a client’s situation so we make a promise to do something for them later. Before we get back to our desk, we are hit with five more issues that need attention and as a result we forget our promise. Well, I can assure you that the person you promised something to does not forget. It may be a very minimal thing that doesn’t even have any real importance but the fact that we forget it tells the person we do not follow-up or take our promises seriously.

Nothing increases your value as much as when people view you as, “the person I can count on to do what he says he will do”.

Strong communication skills
This one is significant. People who have strong communication skills have a real edge on those who don’t. I encourage anyone who is reading this article to make an effort to develop your communication skills. There are classes you can go to in virtually every university plus companies who focus on effective communication. Topics like public speaking, negotiation techniques, organizing and holding productive meetings, presentation techniques, etc. are all worthwhile and can be important investments in positioning you for a promotion.

Learn how to speak in public, make stand up presentations, hold meetings, and how to communicate your vision, plans, and status of things. I cannot emphasize enough how much solid communication skills can mean to you. In many cases, the person who gets the promotion over others is the one who can communicate effectively. Effective communication skills are real career differentiators.

Business minded
Being business oriented and focusing your resources on issues that provide tangible value to your company is key, especially for IT managers. Too often, our managers are focused on the technology and not what the business needs. In management roles, this is a very important issue when looking to determine who should be promoted. I’ll always opt for the manager who knows how to build strong client relationships and has a track record of delivering business value to our business operation clients.

Managers are not good promotion candidates if their focus is out of sync with our business partner’s needs and issues. Most studies suggest that over 50% of all IT organizations are out of sync with the business so this is not a small issue. Senior managers promote those who show they can focus on the right issues for the company and don’t get sidetracked into doing things for technology sake.

The need must exist
We can do a lot to help prepare an employee or an IT manager for the next level promotion, but at the end of the day the need must exist for such a promotion to occur, , , and the person must be a good candidate for the specific position.

In a small company with very few technology employees, promotions just don’t happen quickly. In high growth companies that grow 20-30% every year, promotions seem to happen quite often.

When counseling your employees and discussing the idea of preparing and positioning them for the next level, be sure you make it clear that our company has to have the need and the candidate must be a good fit before such a promotion will occur. Otherwise, you will be setting an expectation that when certain things occur in the employee’s development, the promotion will follow. Again, we have to have the need and a good fit before a promotion will actually occur.

I hope this gives you some things to think about as you make efforts to enhance your career and move to the next level. Getting a promotion usually means you are ready for the role so take a look at what is required in the next position and be sure to develop the skills necessary to be successful in the position. If the next position is an IT manager role, you will be required to handle the following type of issues:
–  project management
–  people management
–  communication to many different levels of people
–  leadership
–  developing and motivating staff
–  organization
–  and much more

Best of success.

5 responses to “Why some managers get promoted over others

  1. Pingback: Top 10 Posts of 2010 | ITLever™

  2. thanks for insight information given to me

  3. Hey Mike,
    Thanks for the sharing; this article is very helpful and has answered some doubts that I’ve been questioned so far. Look forward for more tips and advices.

  4. Mr. Mike Sisco,
    Thank you very much and I hope that more letters about IT techniques and tips will be send as a topic.

  5. Thanks Mike for this great information.

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