What Does It Take to Get Promoted?


Outstanding performance is the beginning, not the end of what it takes to get promoted.

In the book, Empowering Yourself, The Organizational Game Revealed, Harvey Coleman (1996) shares a lesson. Performance, Image and Exposure (P.I.E.) join forces to influence career advancement.

  • Achieving Outstanding Performance on day-to-day tasks contributes 10% to career success.
  • What other people think and say about you, Image, contributes 30% to career success.
  • Exposure, your immediate boss and the right others knowing what you do, has a 60% influence on career success.

We begin this series exploring Performance.

Outstanding performance is essential, and it’s often the visible influencer that shows up in goal setting and coaching conversations.

While metrics play a part in determining performance, intangibles, such as effort, play a role.

In Thinking for a Change, John C. Maxwell (2003) shares Jack Welch’s response to a question about how he differentiated himself from his peers, while building a positive perception of his performance.  Here is an excerpt:

“The only way you are going to stand out to your boss is to understand this principle: When your boss asks you a question, assigns a basic project, or sends you out to gather some data, you must understand that your boss already knows the answer he is looking for. As a matter of fact, in most cases, he simply wants you to go out and confirm what he already believes is true in his gut.

Most people simply go out and do just that…confirm what their boss believed to be true. But here is the difference maker. You must understand that the question is only the beginning. When your boss asks a question, that question should become the jumping off point for several more ideas and thoughts. If you want to elevate yourself, you must sink your thoughts and time into not only answering the question, but going above and beyond it to add value to the train of thought your boss was on.

Practically speaking, that means coming back to the table and presenting to your boss not only an answer, but three or more other ideas, options and perspectives that were probably not previously considered by your boss. The goal is to add value to the idea and the thought by exceeding expectations when the question is given to you.’”

How does this advice translate to your position at any level, any organization?

As an employee relations coach, oftentimes I saw opportunities for individual contributor employees and managers to set themselves apart from the pile. Most often, it was a matter of helping the employee focus first on meeting business expectations, and then exploring how to bring additional value.

Answer these questions to determine ways to increase your impact:

  • Do you consistently deliver “completed staff work” with no obvious, avoidable errors and oversights?
  • How do you keep your manager proactively informed about the progress of project initiatives, including obstacles to overcome?
  • When you communicate a problem, do you present a possible solution?
  • Is it a regular exercise to scan the internal and external environments for subtle or obvious relevant changes, or new learning to enhance your work product?

Go the extra mile in delivering an assignment, letting your performance shock and awe in a good way to create a positive, memorable experience.

As Coleman indicates, Performance only has a 10% influence on a successful career, yet it is critical.

Outstanding performance paves the way for career success and establishes the foundation for building and sustaining a professional Image, the focus of the next article in this series.

Maxwell, J. C. (2003). Thinking for a Change: 11 Ways Highly Successful People Approach Life and Work. New York, NY. Center Street.
Coleman, H. J. (1996). Empowering Yourself: The Organizational Game Revealed. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.

Lillian Davenport, SPHR, SHRM – SCP, CTACC, Principal, End View Solutions, LLC

Lillian Davenport

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Lillian Davenport is a coach, consultant, and leadership strategist. Her signature program, M3 LeadershipSM, prepares you to enhance and develop your self-awareness, embrace your inner strength, and lead with confidence, courage, and impact.

Lillian’s career as a human resources leader includes roles at JPMorgan Chase & Co., Woodforest National Bank, and American International Group, Inc. (AIG), where she leveraged employee relations, and diversity, equity, and inclusion expertise in leadership development.