How to Manage the Five Stages of Your Own Internal Promotion


All internal promotions are temporary and interim. As soon as you think you’ve gotten the promotion, you’re on your way to failure. Instead, make sure you’re still the best candidate to do their job, their way, by intentionally and deliberately doing your current job well, then progressing through the five stages of internal promotion:

  1. Overall consideration
  2. Promised in private
  3. Designated or appointed public
  4. Officially appointed or elected
  5. In role

1) Overall consideration

Well-managed succession planning produces a set of people who could succeed the incumbent. Being part of this consideration set is the first step towards future promotion. When you’ve done that, invest in understanding the job you’re considered to do and how that job should be done – its job, its way. Make yourself the best possible candidate by continuing to develop the required strengths, including:

  • Talent – the match between your innate talents and those required in the new role.
  • Knowledge – learned in books, courses, trainings, etc.
  • Skill – sharpened by intentional and deliberate practice.
  • Live – acquired through activities, projects, programs, assignments and other roles.
  • Artistic sensitivities and benevolence at the level of craftsmanship – absorbed in the apprenticeships of the masters.

The breaking point between being in the consideration set and the promise of employment changes from being one of many candidates for promotion to being the only candidate.

2) Private promised

Even the best-intentioned private promise of a new job is just a statement of the best current thought. Continue to develop your strengths. Identify the few most critical decision makers and influencers. Actively seek them out and build relationships with them to build their support in the promised role.

The breaking point between being promised privately and being named “publicly” is just that – telling others you get the job.

3) Designated or named audience

A public designation is a pivotal moment. Those who support your promotion will rally around you. Those who oppose it will band together against you. Identify your supporters, critics, and detractors, striving to move everyone one step forward to tip the scales in your favor.

  • Turn your supporters into champions.
  • Move those on the fence into the fan camp.
  • Neutralize detractors.

Note that you are still campaigning for the position. Continue to develop your strengths. Start the longer-term fuzzy front-end activities like building more specific relationships, deepening your learning, and starting to plan.

4) Officially appointed or elected

Once you have been officially nominated or officially elected, embark on your initial fuzzy activities, building relationships, deepening your knowledge and crafting your personal 100-day action plan with the following

  1. Leadership approach
  2. Personal Setup
  3. Stakeholdersup, across and down internal and external
  4. Message and key communication points
  5. Pre-departure exchanges and activities
  6. Day one and first conversations and activities
  7. Building Blocks of Tactical Capability including imperatives, milestones, early wins, role triage and ongoing communication

In some cases, you enter the new role when you are officially appointed or elected. In other cases, there is a lag.

5) In the role

All roles are provisional and acting. The people who put you in the role can remove you. So don’t stop. Stay focused on their work, their way. Continue to develop your strengths. Continue to strengthen existing relationships and create new ones.

And keep an eye out for changes so you can adapt. People fail in new roles for three reasons: 1) They don’t adapt (which is less risky in a promotion from within.) 2) They don’t deliver. 3) They fail to adapt to changes on the road. After mitigating the fit risk before being officially appointed, focus on delivery and fit.

Leverage your strengths to deliver what they need, their way.

Stay tuned and pay attention to changes and understand if they are:

  • Minor and temporary – requiring no change on your part
  • Minor and long-lasting – requiring evolution
  • Major and temporary – requiring short-term crisis management or opportunistic action
  • Major and lasting – requiring a restart before the people who gave you the role bring in someone else to restart things.

Click here for a list of my Forbes articles (of which this is #789) and a summary of my book on executive integration: The New Leader’s 100 Day Action Plan.


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