Today, when some people feel lucky just to have a job, is it too much to be thinking about getting a promotion? Of course not.
Businesses are still operating and people must manage those operations. That said, the job market is also tight for managers these days, so to get promoted you’ll need to know your stuff. What follows are five key skills that almost every business owner looks for when choosing who to promote into management.
1. Set a good example. Your boss wants a manager who will “set the tone” for other employees. This includes being punctual, using good manners, and dressing appropriately. Too many front line workers adopt the belief that they’ll be liked by co-workers if they present a rebel’s attitude and a little swagger in the face of authority.
That might be considered cool in high school, but it doesn’t impress business owners. Instead, adopt an attitude of gratitude and show respect for everyone, no matter what their positions on the organizational chart.
Additionally, you’ll set a good example by dressing in a way that shows you care about how you look. Obviously some jobs are “dirty jobs” such as working with grease or paint, but even then you can take care to present your best self. I often advise people to show your boss you are capable of representing the company at a networking event.
2. Be concerned about both quality and deadlines. Some people focus on one over the other, but doing that sends a message that you care about one but not the other. When bosses see an employee who recognizes the value in both, they see someone who could act responsibly in a management role.
Speaking of responsibility, another part of quality is the quality of your character. When a boss sees someone who is coachable and accountable and another employee who is defiant and spouting excuses, it’s the first person who will get considered for promotion, not the second.
3. Deal well with change. In case you’ve been living under a rock, change happens. The person getting a nod for promotion will be the one who looks for ways to make things move forward in alignment with the changes instead of digging in his or her heels and says “we’ve never done it like that before!”
In other words, be a champion of the “can do” attitude. Don’t get stuck in a rut. The human mind is often trained by popular culture that looking at the negative side and being a Gloomy Gus is somehow funny. That might work on a TV sitcom, but it’s not going to fly if you want to be considered for management.
Perhaps another way to think of this is to be a problem solver. After all, change is merely a new way of doing things, and new methods inevitably present their own set of problems. By proactively solving those problems with eagerness you’ll be seen as someone who can make the boss’s job easier – which means you become an attractive candidate for promotion.
4. Be a team-uniter. I would normally say be a team builder, but I fear the term is becoming too cliche. You can become a uniter by using “we” language instead of “I” language. By looking for the value in other people and openly recognizing their strengths publicly, you help them feel recognized for the efforts they’re making. This creates a unifying effect that adds huge value to a team, and can be done by anyone – not just the team leader.
Obviously you don’t want to become a gushing Pollyanna who overflows with enthusiasm about every little contribution, but with human nature comes the warm pride someone feels when others recognize their work.
Along with being a team-uniter is being open to any and all feedback. When working with other teams or people in different departments, be willing to make adjustments to help create smoother workflows. If you insist other people change to meet your traditional way of doing things you will be seen as an obstacle, not a uniter.
5. Become a student. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was on my first day aboard the ship I served on in the US Navy. My boss’s boss was introducing himself and said, “If you want to be promoted, learn your supervisor’s job. He’s going to move on some day and that position will open up. If you already know what’s required for that position, you’re a natural for getting that job after he leaves.”
I put that advice to work for me successfully ever since, and have passed it on to whoever will listen.
Dan Bobinski is a management trainer, best-selling author and director at the Center for Workplace Excellence. He makes his home in Boise. Reach him at (208) 375-7606 or firstname.lastname@example.org.