Are you looking to move up in your company? Tired of watching less talented peers get promoted while feeling stuck? This episode is for you. Most decisions to be promoted are made well in advance of the position opening. If you’re waiting for an invitation to interview, you might be sorely disappointed. In this episode, we talk about how you can start positioning yourself as someone who should move up within the organization, and how your behaviors should change before you even get the chance to interview.
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How To Position Yourself For The Next Promotion
Since I do so much work around here and I’m largely carrying this production, I want to be promoted. I would like to go from cohost to CEO of the show. I demand a new title.
I believe you’ve already got it.
I want to raise.
Our profitable venture here.
I would like to make more than losing thousands of dollars a year on this production. Can’t you promote me, please?
I have you build it.
I’m going to change my business card. I’m going to update our docs that we never signed.
I’m CEO bitch.
I’m going Zuckerberg style. I want all of our followers to know that from now on, I’m the CEO of the show. Don’t forget. Frank is actually the CEO of the show. Also, he is the Chief Eating Officer because he can’t get through an episode without shoving his face with food, which is, I’m sure, very exciting for all of our readers.
This episode is titled, Are You Positioned for the Next Promotion?
If you are curious, Ian is not.
I just promoted myself. I showed all of you how it’s done. Most people think that there is a very organized and complicated process that companies go through when they fill positions and promote people, and the truth is it’s a lot more political than you might think. When I say political, it’s not so many friends. It’s less structured, less organized, and it’s more of a feeling that most companies go through than a very organized and analytic process of who is going to get tapped for the next big job.
Often, the promotion you may be seeking might not even be a position that the company has now. It might be a position that needs to get created for you to get promoted. Getting a promotion is something I’ve done quite a bit. I’ve had to promote a lot of people. It is a very active process that takes a long time. It’s one that you have to put a lot more thought into than doing a good job and hoping for the best.
There are some steps to becoming promoted. First of all, you need to be very competent at what you do. You need to be someone who is more of a conduit than a blocker, and you need to be liked. That’s the political side. If you are not liked, people aren’t going to promote you because they don’t want to work with someone who’s a son of a bitch they don’t care about. Those are the things that you must have. You have to have the competency, and you don’t need to be the best in the job. You need to have some level of understanding so you can teach, train it, say if someone is on or off track.
You need to have the ability to have information flow through you. That’s what being a conduit is, and you need to have people around you who like you, who want to be in meetings with you that have the belief in you. You are picking your foxhole buddies when you are getting promoted. If people don’t want you there, there’s a high probability you are never going to get promoted.
We are going to go through a number of steps and things to think about if you are interested in getting promoted in the next 3, 6, 9, and 12 months and questions that you should ask yourself. The first thing I want to say is an error that I see a lot of people make as they assume that their work is speaking for itself. They are quietly going about their job, doing a great job, and putting in the time. They have been loyal to the company and get good results regularly and think that that is enough that some level of hierarchy above them sees it, knows it, and is going to reward them for it.
I can tell you that that’s not enough to be a good quiet worker because being good at your job doesn’t necessarily mean you will be good at the next job. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you want the next job. A lot of times, folks make this assumption that their work is speaking for themselves and get very frustrated because they don’t even get an opportunity to interview. They get an email on a Monday saying, “So-and-so has been promoted to this position,” and no one even called them or interviewed them.
They are frustrated and go to their boss and say, “How did this happen? Why was there not a panel? Why didn’t I get the opportunity?” Their boss has completely shocked. “You’ve never brought that. You’ve never said a word about wanting to be promoted. I thought you were happy.” I’ve seen this play out over the years.
I would think what happens in a lot of instances is you are either on the inside or the outside. In some instances, it does come down to being liked. Communicating is one thing but there’s something there. How old were you when you were promoted for the first time? How did it happen?To be promoted, you need to be more of a conduit than a blocker, and you need to be liked. Click To Tweet
I was probably 24 years old when I got my first management job. I knew I was going to get the job because I had been given a series of initiatives to lead. I could see that I was starting to get tapped a little bit by my manager. If he were on vacation, he would ask me to run his Friday sales call. We hired a bunch of interns for the first time, and he asked me to hire him. He sent me to college to go hire those folks, then he said, “They report to you,” even though I didn’t get a change in title. I didn’t get any extra pay for that.
He was giving me projects and initiatives to run, and they were very visible projects where he was making sure the rest of the team saw that he was giving me more responsibility. When it came down to when I got the title, he announced it. Everyone was like, “Of course, we saw that one coming.” No one got blindsided.
What I was hoping you were going to say is it happened when you were still in college because you went to GE out of college. Weren’t you in a curriculum or was there a track? What was the track?
When I left college to join GE?
Yes. You were in the management track, and that was the whole thing.
It was a leadership program that I was on but that didn’t guarantee you. Once you got off the program, you had to be good in sales.
The point is this. You started off with a trajectory of promotion. If you are on a leadership track, that’s where you got hired. You didn’t get hired as a janitor or a cafeteria worker. You got hired coming out of college knowing that, “I’m on the track of being promoted.” You are on a leadership track. There are a lot of exit ramps between entry-level and CEO that you can get off on but you know that initially. We are speaking to people who want to be promoted.
The first thing is to make sure you are on a track or on a trajectory where there’s promotion. That’s first and foremost. When I got out of college and started my first job, I was in a similar position as Ian. I was on a trajectory of promotion. The first place to start is to know that there is upward mobility to where you are going.
The company has thought about it. You are identified as one of those people. Start the dialogue early. That’s critical as everything starts. What they used the term for me was there was a ladder. You start at the bottom rung of the ladder and can work your way up the ladder, and then there are splits in the ladder. What’s really important is where you are starting. I will give you a silly example. If you work 50 hours a week at McDonald’s, there’s only so much you can do there but if you work X number of hours at a publicly traded company, there are many more paths to promotion, enriches, and enrichment.
I will stay on this leadership track that I was on. The second point I want to make is to think of yourself as the marketing vice-president of you. If you were with a startup company, let’s say you created a startup company. You create a product, a new restaurant. It doesn’t matter how good your food is if no one knows about it and you are not telling anyone about it.
The whole concept of marketing is drawing awareness to a product or a company. Think about yourself as the product. You could be the best in the world at what you are doing but if no one knows about it and you are not sharing enough, you are not going to go anywhere. Think of yourself as a marketing VP. Are you likable? Are you accountable? Do people know the value you bring to the organization? Are you visible? You have to be a marketer with a megaphone letting people know, “I add a lot of value, and I aspire to do more.” I will give you an example.
Frankie, in that leadership program I was on, I was told when I was hired out of Purdue that, “You will go to four different cities and will have no say in where you go.” Right out of college, I went straight to Atlanta. I was not given any say and went into Atlanta. That’s where I was going. Next, I was told I was going to go to Salem, Virginia. I wanted to go to Chicago. I didn’t know anyone in the GE office in Chicago because I was already in Atlanta. I started calling everyone in the Chicago office.
I asked everyone that I was meeting, “Who do you know in Chicago?” I started learning about all of those managers. When we had sales events, I would meet the Chicago people. I let them all know, “My girlfriend lives in Chicago. My friends live in Chicago. I’m from the Midwest. I’m a Michigan guy. I’m not an Atlanta guy. My friends who graduated from Purdue live in Chicago. I would love to be there. By the way, not just what I want. I’m damn good. I’m an awesome salesperson. I would add value if you got me. If another city gets Ian Matthews, you are going to regret it.”
I was almost like an NFL prospect going into the draft, letting people know you don’t want to pass on me when it’s your turn to draft. I went out of my way to let everyone in Chicago know who I was, what I was capable of, and how badly I wanted to be in their city. I didn’t hope my manager would square me up because he wouldn’t have if I had not done that. I ended up in Chicago because I had a bunch of advocates that I had sold like crazy. I acted like my own marketing VP.
A lot of people, when they are young in their careers, what they worry about is what other people are going to think about them. It’s like The Scarlet Letter of, “I want to be promoted.” I don’t know if Scarlet Letter is prescribed reading anymore but it’s a red marker or a black mark against your career of like, “I want to be promoted or I have desires pass what I’m doing here.” What you should understand is this.
We’ve talked about one of our favorite mentors multiple times in one of our last episodes. Ian and I both have a great deal of respect for different mentors that we have. Especially one that we had is like a common mentor. I remember being very intimidated by the same person. What I realized was he was once in his low twenties. He was once on the bottom of the rung. He wanted to get promoted too. What you start to realize is that it’s not a bad word or it’s not a mark against you that you have a desire or want for more. That’s okay. That’s the first step.
Every single person who is a manager has most likely gotten promoted to be there. They respect the hustle. They understand who it is, what you are, and what you are looking for. What you will see in great management is sometimes they are going to say, “Slow down a little bit. You are not ready for this. Work on these things, and that comes into development, which we will talk about.” That’s part of it. What Ian was saying about the NFL draft, I disagree. It’s not the NFL draft. You are a free agent. You are already in the league. What you are doing is saying, “I’m on a one-year contract here. For my next assignment, I’m a damn good quarterback. I don’t want to be playing in Michigan. I want to move here because,” and that’s what it is.
You see it a lot with sports stars, and especially in the NBA, people move. That’s what you are doing. You are positioning yourself, and it can be to move to a different city. It could be positioning yourself to move to a different role. That’s okay. Having some type of selfishness around, “It’s best for me to do these things,” is a big step, and being able to communicate it. Now what’s tricky is not to be you person. “I want to get promoted to Chicago because I’ve done these things in Atlanta that had better the organization and have benefited my boss.” That is when you start getting people who want to fight and advocate for you.
Awesome literary reference by Frank to drop in Scarlet Letter there, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1850. That should still be required reading. I understand wholly what you are saying, though. What Frank is saying is some people are afraid to seem too ambitious. Ambition is not a problem as long as you are a performer. The people that annoy me and companies are the ones with high ambitions that aren’t willing to put in the grind and put in the work.
They have expectations that they should be promoted but they don’t want to do what it takes. The people that get promoted most often are the ones who are clear about their ambition and also demonstrate that they are willing to put in the extra work. It’s one thing to come tell the head coach that you want to play shortstop. It’s another thing to be the guy who comes to every practice early and stays late to take extra ground balls. It’s two different things. Who get gets results but says, “That’s the position that I want to do and want to be.”If you want to be promoted, make sure that you are on upward mobility to where you're going. It matters where you start. Click To Tweet
To an extent on that, Frankie, some of getting promoted is not giving a damn what your peers think because some of your peers are going to be annoyed that you show ambition. They are going to see you as a threat. I had to go through some of that when I was in this leadership program. Some of the guys were cool with going through their four rotations of six months, and I wasn’t. I was trying to get off, and it bothered them that I was ambitious. I didn’t give a shit because they weren’t going to be a part of my career. I was the one that had to manage my career.
There’s another side of it with peers. Your peers are your peers. I was never focused on my peers. I was always focused on the people ahead of me. How do I get their attention? How do I do things in a way that they think they want me to be up there with them? It was very quickly what I would get to that level, and I will be like, “Who’s next?” I started focusing on not only being great at this level but wanting the next group of people to want me to be a part of that group. That is how promotions happen very quickly. When you talk about being the best, go ahead and dive into that with being the best.
You got to be able to measure it. That can’t be an opinion. You have a peer set. For me, if you want to get promoted, you don’t have to be the best.
I have the same note.
The best isn’t always the best person for the next promotion. They might not want the next promotion. They might only be good at that one skill and don’t have the skills to move up a step in there. In my opinion, you can’t be lousy.
Maybe be the top third. You need to be in the top third.
That’s it. I was going to say top 25%, whatever it is. If there are twelve of you doing the job, you should be top three. You shouldn’t be 6th or 7th. You should show that you are competent and willing to grind enough where you are one of the best in what you are doing. That is the minimum. If you can’t now, objectively say, “I’m in the top 25% of my peer group.” You probably shouldn’t be asking for a promotion.
This whole nonsense of, “I’m not real good at this job but I would be great at leading people doing it.” That’s b*******. If you get that job, the people that you are leading are not going to respect you because you are going to be telling them to get results that you did improve you could get yourself. The bare minimum to be considered for promotion, are you one of the best doing what you can do? Can you prove it measurably?
As an example, I got promoted through a home building company. I got promoted as a builder and as a salesperson. As a builder, I wasn’t technically as strong as people who have been doing the job for 30 years. There were a couple of people in my division who were better than me. They have been doing it for 30 years but what I was better at than them was being adaptable, being flexible, and I would go into communities that were shit shows. They wouldn’t go into those communities because they had earned the right not to.
You would go into these startups, and maybe you weren’t as good as them. You were good at doing something that they were either no longer willing to do or no longer capable of doing because of age or being an over-it factor. That’s one way to distinguish yourself. When I got promoted as a salesperson, I had gone to three broken communities. I had a gravy train for 50 days, and then I got yanked out of that place and moved into another community that stunk.
That community stunk. I got it to work. 7 or 8 months later, I got yanked into another community that stunk. What you start to realize is that it’s the same thing I said about construction. You are not being put into maybe the places where you are going to be the absolute best while you are performing at an incredible level compared to what was there before.
When you are in the moment, you’re like, “They keep shitting on me. This sucks. I don’t like it.” That’s what opportunity looks like. They are sticking you in these spots because they know that you can take something bad and make it good. That’s what winning in management is. That’s what gives you the opportunity to catapult forward.
Frank is saying he was a builder. He was a Project Manager. He was managing multiple houses, getting built at any one given time. He wanted to move up to being a Construction Manager, where he managed multiple project managers doing what he was doing. I can think of a couple of the project managers Frank was a peer of at the time because they were still there years later.
Some of them were definitely better builders than Frank but I’m thinking of two of them that could build more houses, do it on a budget better, and could handle more volume than Frank when he was younger but one of them was painfully introverted. He couldn’t look you in the eyes. He could barely talk. I’m thinking of a couple of guys who used to get those gold jackets at the meetings. A nice guy. All he wanted to do was build homes.
He was so introverted that if you would have made him a manager of people, it would have been a disaster. It would have frustrated the people reporting to him. The other one was the opposite. He was irascible. He was a mean-spirited dude. He was always complaining about the company. Every initiative, he fought it. Just because they built more homes and did them faster than Frank, would it make them better for a promotion?
Frank was more malleable. He was more willing to jump onboard with initiatives the company was doing and was good with people. He was a good listener. He would make a better leader. Frank’s skillset just because he was a number one at what he was doing, he had a better skillset that could grow him into the next role.
That’s it. What you have to focus on with that is you have to realize your spot. There was a year that it was the full years of me selling. I was in the top 3 to 5 in every statistical category in the market. If you looked at it on balance over two years, I was near number one. It never lined up where I was the best but I was very near the top. I had gotten there.
There were people who had been there years before me like the builder example. That’s okay not to be absolutely the best but if you are pretty damn close and you are also finding yourself in challenging situations, ask yourself why. “Does someone believe in me? As a manager, does someone think that I’ve got something that can make their life better?” That’s how this whole thing works.
You can support me on this or disagree with it. What happens when people are coming up for promotion or there’s an opportunity? They asked the managers, “Who would make a good sales manager? Who would make a good production manager? Who would make a good regional manager in the mortgage?” They ask those questions of the people at that position or above that position. Your boss might promote you. They say, “Whenever I have a problem, I stick Frank in there. He should be considered for this.” That happened a lot in my career.
Number four is, who is your sponsor? You have to have a sponsor. I will share an example of this. Now, we are talking to venture capital firms, Frank. We are trying to raise $10 million for our tech startup. What I’ve learned about venture capital is you meet with 6 or 7 people but unless you get one partner to put their name on the deal, you don’t get the money. There’s always one person who is going to be the sponsor who says, “We should do this deal,” and they are willing to bet that money on their career on you. It’s not a group. There’s got to be one person who is out there on the limb. That’s how it is in business when you are trying to get a promotion.Ambition is not a problem as long as you are a performer. Click To Tweet
Obviously, the higher up your sponsor is, the better. If your uncle is the CEO and you are going to get the promotion. That’s the way it’s going to be. Normally, it’s going to be your manager, and you need to know your manager is going to advocate for you. For the first management job I got, my manager was my sponsor. He was well-liked and well-thought of in the company.
That was a perfect situation for me but I also got a promotion, a much bigger one, to a General Manager job later on, where the president of our business saw me present at a meeting and liked my energy, liked what I did. Talked to me for a little bit afterward and went and told a few people, “You should put him in a bigger job.”
That was a different sponsor. That was a kingmaker. That was skipped three levels of the organization with a guy I’d never met. I happened to kill it at one meeting and he was like, “Promote that guy.” That’s rare. The first one I talked about was where my manager, who had seen me at work for three years, advocated to everyone and sold to everyone that I should be in that role, that’s normally what it is but you need to know who is going to sponsor you.
I’ve had it happen both ways where it’s an immediate manager, and it’s somebody else. What I will tell you is this. I was in a meeting with Rainer, and I was 23. I graduated college and was being quiet.
Rainer was a top five executive in a public company.
It’s 6 or 7 levels ahead of me. They said something and I was like, “In my experience, which I know isn’t very vast. I’ve seen it.” I went into an explanation. I was humble about it but what it did was it showed I had a different level of thinking. I had the confidence to speak in front of somebody who would intimidate a group pretty easily. I got my point out. I remember they went around the room further, and he came up and called me out. He’s like, “Let’s talk a little bit more about that idea.” A couple of things happened. I had a degree in Construction Management. I went to a company that hired English majors and Business majors to build houses. I had the advantage.
I set myself up because I picked the right job. I was prepared. I had done my work. I’ve done my homework. When I was in this meeting with him, I had gone through the training and paid attention. I memorized a bunch of things that I thought would be helpful. I took what I knew from my baseline experience. I made it relevant to what the company was promoting. When I spoke about it, I stood out because it had depth.
You never know when these moments are going to happen. Ian’s moment happened in a meeting where someone came, sat, and talked to him. They are like, “Promote this guy.” For me, it was a regular meeting but I had done the work and was prepared and someone who was very high up heard something liked it and they are like, “We got to do more with that guy.” These are those moments.
Don’t shy away from those moments if you want to move. The opposite is don’t fake it. If you don’t know what you are saying, especially to somebody like that. They are going to smell bullshit fast. You got to have the ability to talk competently. It can be a very small window but inside of that window, speak competently with depth.
There are commonalities in what we both said, though. The commonality in this is that in both cases, Frank and I were not afraid to speak in front of a group to raise our hands and share ideas. Mine happened to being on a big stage in front of a big group of people, a couple of hundred people, where this president saw me and said, “That guy has something that I like. He’s energetic. He has good ideas.” Frank was in a meeting where a president was there, and a lot of people clammed up in a meeting with the top five executives. They don’t share new ideas or different ideas. Frank put himself on the radar, and I did the same.
You have to be willing to put yourself out there in forums that might be uncomfortable. In both cases, we took risks. That’s a risk to speak in front of a president. I could have bombed that presentation, and that guy could have said, “Who is that deep s***?” A kingmaker can promote you and can also stay off with your head. There’s a little risk in doing some of this, and you don’t move up in an organization if you don’t take the risk. I would say it’s not the sponsor. If you want a promotion, you have to know who all of the decision-makers are. Are you on all of their radar?
Let’s say you want to work your way up to where you are a sales manager. Who’s going to make the decision? You are going to report to someone. That’s going to be a decision-maker. They report to someone. That’s your skip-level boss. That person almost always has a say but then you might be representing different departments that you are selling for. Those department heads might have a say in who their sales manager is going to be. They might go talk to a few people on your team.
You have to know when this decision gets made, and your sponsor can help you with this. If you have a good sponsor, they can tell you, “Here’s who’s going to be involved in the decision-making.” You have to go out and make sure. This is like a sales process. If you are trying to go sell an expensive business to a business, product or service, you got to know all the decision-makers. Who are all the constituents? There could be a finance guy involved. There could be a technical guy involved. It could be an operator.
“Who’s making the decision, and am I good with all of them? Which one of them is going to say, ‘No, Ian Mathews doesn’t deserve this promotion.’ What do I got to go do so that when they do get asked, I’ve changed their mind that they think something different?” Do all of those decision-makers know that you even aspire to be promoted? Do they even think you want the job? If you can’t answer that, don’t assume it because that means a lot to decision-makers knowing that you want it. I have been on a lot of panels before where someone says, “I don’t think they want to be a manager. I think they want more money.” If that’s the way everyone thinks, you are not going to get the next job.
Your hat isn’t even in the ring. If it’s not in the ring, there’s no way you are going to get considered for it. I don’t know. We’ve done a good enough job on that. Let’s move on.
Are you doing aspects of the next job already? This one is important to me. I’ve always said this to folks who have told me that they wanted to get a promotion, “If all you want is the money and the title, start doing the jobs. Start doing lots of aspects of the job because one thing that holds back people from getting a promotion is a lack of experience.” Let’s say managing people. How can we promote you if you’ve never managed people before? That’s a common thing that’s out there.
Start leading your peers. Let’s say you are a project manager, and the company hired a green, wet behind ears new project manager who’s got to learn the business. Maybe right out of college. Raise your hand and ask your manager, “Can I mentor this guy? Can I mentor this new guy who started? I want to take him under my wing. I want to teach them the business. I want to help you take some work off of your plate. I want to teach this guy the business.” That’s doing the next job before you have the title.
When you get interviewed and they say, “You’ve never managed people before,” you can say, “It’s not technically true. I was on the interview panel for the last two project managers hired. I onboarded them. If you ask them who taught them the business, they are going to say me. If you ask them who they go to for questions when they are stuck. They say me. Isn’t that what a manager does?” Now you can say, “I’ve never had the title. I have never formally been called manager but I have been doing all the aspects of that job before anyone ever gave me the title.”
I remember I interviewed for a job multiple times. I interviewed to become a sales manager. The first time, I didn’t get it. They promoted someone else. I went back to my model then they interviewed me a second time for sales manager. Instead of making me a sales manager, they made me a Production Manager, which is the Manager of Construction. Technically, I didn’t get it a second time because they did promote someone from that group. I wasn’t the one that was promoted. I remember being pissed off about both of those interviews and thinking, “I was prepared. I was ready. I did all the work. I should’ve gotten the job.”
Decades later, I looked back and was not prepared. As an example, I remember I was talking to Paul Mock, and he was a Division Manager. I was a Sales Manager for him. What I ultimately answered the question was like, “What I had done to lead the group in my current role?” I had rolled out this one thing in how people can fix their credit. It was weak. It was one answer. The next time I came back to the interview, I had a couple of answers. The third time I interviewed for that job, I fucking won and crushed it.Getting promoted is about not giving a damn about what your peers think. Click To Tweet
Instead of having 1 or 2 shitty answers, I had some insanely good answers. “I had done this and this. I had built this person up and done this job. Through these people, I have been able to accomplish these things.” Instead of having 1 or 2 half-ass things, I had a real resume of accomplishments, leading, and doing. I can be honest. I could have done the job the first time. I know I would have grinded through it but I could lose to two women who were better than me at that job. They were better.
They had been in the roles a lot longer and have gone on to incredible sales careers. One of them was a regional sales manager for a builder up in Northern Virginia now. If I said her name, you would know who it is. She kicked my ass because she was better. What I had, to be honest, about is I was weak. I wasn’t good enough. I did not have enough stuff, so I had to go back. I had to work. I had to be focused on helping the company and focus on developing myself. When I was in that room the next time, it wasn’t crickets. It was like, “This guy is ready.”
This next one goes along with the last question, “Are you doing aspects of the next job already?” The other question I would ask you to think about is, “What will my peer say when I am announced in the role? When they promote me into this role, will my peers say, ‘Of course or what took them so long?’ Will they say, ‘That’s b*******. That’s political?’” If it’s this ladder, you have been doing all the networking and finding out who the decision-makers are without putting in the work and being a good teammate in the meantime.
I’ve got a good story on this. Frankie, I had a closing supervisor, which was not the highest paying job in the company at NVR but she was in one branch and she was good at it. She had six closers. She was in the biggest branch. She had developed all six of her closers herself from the ground up. We’d hired them out of college, and she would teach them closing, which people before that had told me was impossible. “It takes decades to learn the closer job. It’s so detail-oriented and checklists and it’s hard.”
This supervisor went and developed six kids right out of college. Taught them how to be closers, and many of them got promoted into other things. She was so good at building the materials that we asked her to start doing training for closers that were hired from around the company. It got to a place. Her name is Kim. She would teach a closer class every quarter for NVR mortgage for three years.
All the new closers that were hired the last three months would come to Fairfax and would spend two days with Kim McDermott, and she would teach closers how to teach. She built a binder. By the way, she did all of this without asking for a dime. She wasn’t like, “This is b*******.” In fact, she loved it because she liked to teach, and it broke up her day-to-day job. She went and did it.
I respected it because I did a lot of this stuff. I went and did this extra training. I did all of that. I never asked for money. I’m telling the story because three years later, I got into a Senior Vice resident role. I’m now running the mortgage operation. I made a decision to centralize our closing. No longer are we going to have a handful of closers in every office because it was hard?
You would lose a closer and be screwed. We decided we were going to put all 80 of them in Pittsburgh. When the time came for that, I went to Kim and said, “Kim, what do you think about building a centralized closing department all in Pittsburgh with all Pittsburgh closers? You teach them all.” She was a little intimidated because it was a huge promotion, a big chunk, and a big up-and-pay. That went from a supervisor to a director, skipped a couple of levels, and she took it.
When we announced it, I got more emails than I’ve ever gotten in my life from a promotion. Frank, I must’ve got 40 or 45 emails from closers all around the company saying, “You nailed this. She deserves that. She’s perfect for that job.” Frankie, it’s because she was doing the job before I gave her the title. She was doing it in a way that people respected her. When she was announced, it was the most obvious promotion I had ever made. Everyone was so happy that she got the job.
I hear two different things there. The point of this one is, “What are your peers going to say about you?” Like heard. She did a great job. She worked above and beyond. She treated people the right way. She trained them. She cared about them. She probably wrote thank you cards. She followed up with them. This is before text messages. She stayed in touch with these people. She became part of their life. She was authentic. She was super into it, and because of that, she didn’t get people who liked her. She got raving fans, which is a big thing.
There’s another side of it that we didn’t talk about here. It’s off-topic but I’m going to say it anyway. Ian was in a big role. He knew he had somebody who cared, who was competent, who trained, who was good at these things, and ultimately, Ian’s responsibilities report directly to the CEO. CEO’s real fucking high-strung. He just is. That’s what CEOs are. Ian handpicked someone who he knew he could trust and put him in this big role because he knew that the role wasn’t too big for the person even though the person might have thought that it was too big for them. That is how these things happen.
I will use an obscure thing that’s off-track but makes sense. They talk about football coaches in their coaching trees. This happens all the time. What they do is look and you are like, “How did this new person, this new coach assemble their staff?” What you see is these people have all worked or played together. They always hire people. “I was on staff with him years ago. Although he was only at this low-level rung here, this person has the competency to do this job.”
When you become the man or the woman, and you are running the department, what you pick and choose is people you know you can trust. People you know you can rely on. People who speak the same language as you. We talked about it early on about having a sponsor. If you promote people and you do a good job underneath someone else’s reign, when that person moves up, they are going to bring you with them. That’s the coaching tree. That’s what Ian did with this woman who went to Pittsburgh.
I love this, and I’m going to stay on it for one more minute, Frank because it sparks something. The CEO you are talking about is high-strung. I first had to sell him on centralizing the closing department because it could have been a major disruption in the company. We had to do it in phases. People could have panicked, and all laughed. We could have been in a lot of trouble. It took us eighteen months to go centralize everything.
Once I sold him on that, which was a big enough risk, then he wasn’t sold on it. I had to go to him and say, “This person is a closing supervisor. They are going to skip about three rungs up the level and going to be able to go from managing 6 to 80 with the complexity of having 5 supervisors report to them and 80 closers. They are going from having Northern Virginia to the whole company responsibility.”
He was very dubious about this, very skeptical because he didn’t know Kim. He wanted me to go to a bank and find someone who had run a centralized closing department before. “Why wouldn’t you go to Bank of America or Wells Fargo, where they do this already? Find someone who’s running a region and 200 closers and have them stand it up.”
I fought very hard against that because I said, “I don’t believe in the cultures of big banks. I don’t believe in the way they are run. I know this person. I know that she will struggle at first and will figure it out. I believe in her. I trust her. There is much less risk in her growing in this role than going outside to a bank and finding someone that just because they ran a closing department, they are going to bring all the nonsense from the bank over here.” I fought and put my name on it. I was a sponsor and willing to go out on a limb for her. She earned that with me over years of getting results. I knew what she was capable of and how scalable she was.
How often did you worry about it? How often did you think, “I might’ve made the wrong choice?”
Never. This is another nuanced example. Sean McVay won the Super Bowl. He’s one of the youngest coaches in football. He was the very bottom rung at the Buccaneers when they won a Super Bowl, and he was plucked multiple times. People said, “This person is young. They are inexperienced but they can do more,” because they have proven that they were doing more in a lowly role. They were already doing more. That person then got jumped several rungs. They went from a low-level assistant to the head coach of a team in Los Angeles. There’s no more high profile. That person leapfrogged several times because they did so much more than they were asked to do in the role.If you want to get promoted, don't fake it. If you don't know what you're saying, stop talking. Have the ability to talk competently. Click To Tweet
That demonstrates to others. Ian can get behind that because if it didn’t work out and failed but this woman had done several things so well, you can defend that as a Manager. Like, “Wrong fit. She didn’t like Pittsburgh,” but these are the reasons. Ian had strong reasons and logic for making a move because Ian also gets a paycheck. He is also employed. He can get fired. That’s the thing you have to realize. This is like a full 360 type of economy going on. There are parts of it but those are the steps. If you can get people behind you and get a groundswell, it makes a ton.
I have never been fired from a company but I always thought if I’m going to get fired, I’m going to get fired with people I know and trust and not people from outside this company that I’m guessing based on a one-hour interview in a background check. Give me the person I’ve spent thousands of hours with all day. Last couple of things we are going to talk about.
If you are going from that promotion, there’s a good chance there are skills needed that maybe you haven’t done in a previous job because of the promotion. It’s a stretch. You are getting moved up. What I would suggest doing is, talking to the hiring manager, to other people that are in that job that you aspire to get promoted into, and find out what their day-to-day activities are and what their strengths need to be in that job.
Look for parallels that bridge the gap. I will give an example. Let’s say that Frank’s regional production job. Let’s say Frank went and talked to someone who was in that job and they said, “A big part of my job is finding creative ways to make life easier on all the project managers.” Frank maybe hadn’t done that before in that job but he could say, “I’ve done that for my manager before. Let me give you three ideas that I brought to my construction manager that helped all of my peers do their job a little more efficiently.”
You want to find things that are in the next job that you are doing similar things in your job, even if you haven’t done it exactly. Similar to the example of onboarding a new employee. You weren’t their manager but you helped do it. Me, going in hiring interns, they didn’t report to me. I didn’t have the title but I went and interviewed. I picked talent. I onboarded them. I motivated them and got results out of them.
I did that in a sales rep position while I was still commissioned. I was able to bridge the gap to be a Manager when people said, “You have never been a manager before. Why would we promote you?” I could say, “I’ve done some of it.” The other piece I would say is, “You are going to get hit with that before.” It’s this chicken or the egg of, “I can’t promote you because you don’t have the experience,” and you are saying, “I can’t get the experience if you won’t promote me.”
What I love to do in an interview in that position, I’ve done this before, say, “Were you born a manager? Were you born into that job or did someone take a chance on you once? Why did they take a chance? It looks to me like that chance worked out pretty well for the company because now, you are in a much higher job.”
I did that in my first management interview. When I got challenged by an executive that, “You’ve never managed people.” I asked them flat out, “Who took a chance on you? Did you have to wait until you were 50 years old before someone gave you a management job?” It was like, “No, I was pretty young. I’m asking you to take a chance on me. You either see something in me or you don’t but don’t tell me I can’t be promoted because I don’t have the experience. At some point, someone has got to believe in me that I can learn those experiences and grow into this role.”
I’m going to answer this in a slightly different way. Using parallel skill’s experience, you bridge the gap to the next job. Going all the way back, I worked with my dad. I worked as a bus boy at the Outback. I got promoted to waiter. I got promoted to a Head Wait. I got promoted to bartender. I left college. I started off at the bottom rung at Ryan Homes, and I moved my way up. What I remember, and I talked about, is that I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing in every single job, and then within a couple of months, I felt I had gotten proficient.
Every time I got promoted to a new job, I no longer felt proficient. I felt like an idiot. “I don’t belong here. I have Imposter syndrome. I’m not good enough to do this job.” It happened to me enough times by the time I was in my low twenties that when I finally started my actual career, not just working in restaurants. What I realized was this, I come with inherent strengths but I come with inherent weaknesses. Everybody else comes with inherent strengths and inherent weaknesses too and what is going to define me is my ability, to be honest about it. This is what I did.
Anytime I found myself in a new role, and this could be your first job, it is to understand where you are strong, be honest, there will be cocky, and understand where you’re weak. When you start a new job, you are going to be weak in almost everything. The one thing you can do is work hard and listen and take notes. What I did was I found 2 to 4 people who were good at the things I stunk at.
I would go up to them and would say, “I’ve asked around. You are the best at this, wouldn’t you agree?” They would say, “Yes, I’m pretty good at that.” Like, “Can I tag along? I won’t make your life worse. I want to learn how to do a frame check. I was told you used a frame. You are good at this. Can I come with you whenever you are going to do it? I don’t care if it’s 6:00 in the morning, if it’s Saturday, I will show up.”
You do these things and take things that are weaknesses, and you might not be able to turn them into strengths but you can neutralize the weaknesses. You can at least be decent at them. Maybe you can turn a couple of them into strengths. What you do is you get good at the job. You say thank you to that person. You become proficient. You get promoted. At your next stop, you say, “Here are the things I’m bringing with me that I’m already pretty good at but here are the 3 or 4 things I suck at. Who are the experts?”
You do this at every wrong. What I have noticed is this. That’s a process. That’s a system. That’s a problem-solving method. If you have that, you are not going to lose in an interview because you are going to say, “I have been in seven jobs since I was a kid. I stunk at all of them when I started, and this is my process.” When I had figured out that recipe, I never lost an interview again because that’s what made me great.
If you can figure that out in years like, “I’m going to get there, and I’m not going to be awesome because I’m going to be brand new but I’m going to know it. I have all of these learning experiences that I can build off of, and this is the method. I’m going to ask, ‘Who’s the best?’ I’m going to go say, ‘Can I spend some time with you, and I’m going to get good at it quickly.’” That is a winning formula. It instills confidence in whoever is groaning you, and it gives you the ability to very quickly move up the rungs.
I’m going to finish with one last question you’ve got to ask yourself a lot of times with promotion, “How easy is it to replace me?” A lot of times, your ego gets involved. You love to think, “This company couldn’t do it without me,” but that will hold you back a lot of times. Especially if you are a manager and you want to work your way up the executive ranks, you had better be able to go to them and say, “If you promote me, these two people could do my job tomorrow, and here’s why. I have been developing them for two years. Here are the stretch assignments I’ve given them. Here are the things that I delegate to them regularly that are technically part of my job responsibilities. I would be very confident in one of these individuals stepping right into my job.”
That is so powerful versus, let’s say, you are competing with someone else who’s going for this job. That person is like, “We are going to have to go outside and look for someone.” Versus, you saying what I said, “Who’s getting the job, Frankie?” If it’s close, like for like, you and this other person, it doesn’t have a succession plan. You have a great tree, like you said, a coaching tree that you can go pluck right away. What’s the less risky pick for the company? It’s promoting you because they got someone to slide right into your job.
You’ve already acted as if. There’s an awesome line in the boiler room where they are like, “If you don’t know, act as if.” They are basically telling you in the boiling room to commit fraud. We are not telling you to do that here. We are telling you to act as if you are a manager before the time comes for you to be the manager.
Act as if you’re in that next role before that time comes. I will close it with this. We have someone that works with us here, highly decorated, won a big award, and he told his manager, “I want to win that award next year.” His manager told him, “I don’t think that’s a great goal. I think your goal now that you are a manager is that someone that works for you should win that award.” That is awesome advice.
Once you get to a manager, it’s not about you anymore. It’s about your accolades from now on, someone on your team won that award because you developed them, and that makes you look good as a leader of people, which is your new job.If you do a good job underneath someone else's reign, when that person moves up, they're going to bring you with them. Click To Tweet
Is there any chance that I could win an award at the next Cava Companies Retreat as the CEO of the show? Is there any chance, Frank? Could you give me an award?
We give you the award but it might have something to do with rubber dong flooded from Hong Kong.
You are mean-spirited. I’m a hell of a CEO. I am very excited about this. If you folks would like to write me and congratulate me on my new promotion after this episode, I’m happy to do that. If you know someone who is interested in a promotion, share this episode with them, and don’t forget to follow. If this gave you any value, please give us a five-star review on Apple Podcasts.
You are always a self-promoter.
- The Scarlet Letter
- Cava Companies
- Apple Podcasts – Let Me Speak To A Manager