How Do I Earn my Promotion: A Tool to Help You and Your Team’s Greatness Shine

Congratulations, you have a new job! 

And for those of you who haven’t just landed a new job, this post is still for you; the research shows that on average we will have 7 to 15 careers in our lifetime. Guaranteed, there will be a time when the greatness lesson in this post will serve you well!


Starting Strong

I want to share with you one of the most important job transition hacks I’ve ever used. It was taught to me by a former boss, currently the President of the Human Resource Professional Association of Ontario (HRPAO) Louise Taylor Green. 

It all started the day I sheepishly walked into her office for our weekly one-on-one with a resignation letter in my hand. I had been headhunted to start an Organizational Development department and it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I couldn’t turn down. I was expecting her reaction to be disappointment; I was on a small team, we were without a Director (the position between her and I), and we had some pretty major deliverables.  

Instead, she couldn’t have been more supportive. She said, “Okay, Sarah, we’ll use the last 10 minutes to talk about your projects. The rest of our time I want to mentor you for a successful transition.”

To say I was grateful and relieved would be an understatement.

I thought it was going to be kind of a pep talk meeting, but instead, she shared with me what she did every time she started in a new role: establish your personal and your team’s value proposition. In other words, she taught me how to figure out what my internal clients most needed, prioritize value-added and visible quick wins, and establish a value proposition statement that would be my true north.

The benefits may seem counterintuitive. This approach allows you to take less time to get up to speed on this new job. You also build relationships and influence faster and intentionally. You are seen as a partner rather than a competitor or cost center. It also gives you valuable data to work with your team to ensure they’re doing work that has the most impact and influence.

How do you do this? Here are the steps and you can grab a tool summarizing this here.

1., Listen and Learn

Michael Watkins has a great book, The First 90 Days, where he talks about different business situations you may walk into, and how some of them require you to spend the time getting to know the business, people and challenges before making a change. How many of us take the time to do this? Many of us carry right on from where our predecessor left off, or the other extreme, make wide-sweeping changes before we have a sufficient lay of the land. 

Instead, sit down with your peers and other influencers to find out things like:

  • What does our department/team/division do that adds value to you and your group?
  • If you could change one thing in how we work together or serve our clients, what might it be?
  • What do you see as the most important project or strategic objective we should be advancing?
  • What do I need to know that probably no one wants to tell me?

I’ve found oftentimes, stakeholders haven’t been asked (particularly if you have a siloed organization). The very fact that you’re inviting them to sit down and talk with you about what they see as value immediately gives you credibility. Sometimes people worry they will be “swayed” which is why this cannot be an exclusionary process; you want to hear the good, bad and the ugly from everyone.

2. Reflect and Validate

As you are listening deeply, you are trying to understand what is being said and not said. You haven’t built their trust yet. When your “spidey senses” says, I think they’re holding back, probe. Make it psychologically safe for them to share the tough stuff and reassure them how individual feedback (unless you were worried someone’s health was in jeopardy or an offense was taking place) was not going any further than with you, and only themes will be shared outside of that room. It is entirely possible you are the first person who has truly deeply listened to their impressions of the workplace in a very long time or perhaps ever. Of course, check and validate you’ve heard them correctly.

3. Theme and Prioritize

The next step is to summarize what you’re seeing as the key themes. Explore with your team and the decision-makers how you or your team could add the greatest value – both in what you’re already doing and what you could do that you’re not currently doing. Use criteria to evaluate options. You can use a scale of 1 to 5 with criteria such as quality, cost, ease, readiness, etc. Highest rated options available, vet them further through the Impact/Effort Matrix; what is the highest value and lowest effort that could make an impact right away (quick wins) and what requires more time but will have a big impact (requiring a plan)? Before you leave the meeting, identify which quick win will be acted upon before the end of the week to demonstrate to your stakeholders you were listening.

4. Socialize and Systematize

Of course, share with your direct supervisor and other influencers what your plan is, and get their blessing (note: be willing to go to bat for your plan – a surefire way to undo all the goodwill – is to abandon it just because one influential person said no to it all). Then, go back to your stakeholders – such as at your leadership forum – to share what you learned and how it’s translated into what you will stop, start and continue doing at a team or division. Explain how, if it’s not right then, folks can give you further feedback. Outline your quick wins and ideally, highlight one or two you’ve already acted on or major progress has been made. Outline the plan for the year, how it impacts them, how it supports your operation or strategic strategy, and how success will be measured and tracked. And most of all, thank them for their honesty, time and belief in the process.

If you want to take this whole process one step further, you can bottom-line your team or division’s commitment by crystalizing one value proposition statement. I can still remember the one we created over 10 years ago when I first tried this approach: “Organizational Development: Your strategic leadership partners in individual, team and organizational growth.” Any time we got a new request, our very first criteria to evaluate it was “does it align to our value proposition”? If the answer was no, it was a simple answer and clients began to filter their requests through it too before long.

Would you like to take a go at creating a personal, team or division value proposition? You are welcome to download the tool here. And why not share this with someone you know who’s going for a new job, promotion or just landed one. What a great way to remind them of how much you believe they can do it.

Want to check out more resources about how you can recognize other’s greatness? Check out these articles:

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

Judy Kucharuk

Director, Marketing and Special Events, Encana Events Centre

"Funny, full of energy and incredibly motivating – all words to use when describing Sarah and her passionate stage presence. We were fortunate to have Sarah join us as a speaker for Spark Women’s Leadership Conferences and her presentations about leveraging greatness hit the core of our objective at SPARK: “A rising tide lifts all boats”. I would not hesitate to recommend Sarah to other organizations that are searching for a well-prepared, well-organized, thoughtful and passionate storyteller."
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Learning & Development Manager, Libro Credit Union

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Executive Director, Community Living Hamilton

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Melissa Chaulk

Manager of Professional Development

Canadian Dental Hygienists Association

"We work hard at CDHA to give our members a wonderful conference experience, so we were thrilled to have received resoundingly positive feedback on Sarah's opening plenary keynote. It was the highest attended of the entire conference for both dates!"
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Director, The Center for People in Organizational Development, Sheridan College

"Smart, challenging, innovative, committed, dependable, and reliable, I highly recommend her for all your recognition needs. I have brought Sarah into my last two organizations to help build a culture of recognition and celebration. The focus on appreciation is more important now than ever."

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