Bold Steps: Five Ways to Improve Your Productivity After a Promotion

“Every time you win, you get another fight.” —Chael Sonnen, American mixed martial artist.

Laurence J. Peter is famous for the business principle named after him, which states that workers are promoted to their level of incompetence. In other words, the better you do your job, the more likely you’ll get promoted into a position you’re not good at. I don’t necessarily agree with the Peter Principle, but I have noticed that, to paraphrase British satirist Terry Pratchett, “If you dig the best ditches, they give you a bigger shovel.”

Unless you fight it or make yourself irreplaceable, at some point someone will promote you to a higher position in your organization. For those who crave success, this is a primary goal of work. For others it’s not as important as the paycheck that lets one do things like eat and pay the mortgage. Promotion comes as a reward for a job well done—ironically resulting in more work. For the fully engaged, it also provides the opportunity to accomplish more for the organization. You may have to work harder, but isn’t that expected when you’re promoted?

So, consider these five ways to hit the ground running as soon as possible after a promotion:

  1. Study for it! If you know you’ll be moving up the ladder soon, don’t just sit there like a lump—prepare. Discuss the position’s requirements, official and otherwise, with your direct supervisor or manager. Meet with someone in that position (including the current job holder, if you can), and discuss what to expect and what you need to learn. Start filling in the gaps in your knowledge, on your own dime if necessary. Take any required or optional training and classes to hone your abilities you prepare. You’ll still have a learning curve, but if you’re willing to work smarter and harder for a while, the transition will prove much smoother.

  2. Meet with your team. This is especially necessary if you’re now a manager with direct reports. Discuss your new position and be honest about how you’ll need their help to transition into the job. Acknowledge that you may not “fill the shoes” of whoever was there before; however, you’re willing to put in the time and effort to maximize everyone’s output and make your group a role model for others. Discuss any changes you’d like to make and ask for feedback.

  3. Reset goals with higher benchmarks, now that you’re in a higher position with greater expectations. Realize you’ll need the help of your team to get there, and delegate as necessary. Whenever you achieve one goal, celebrate and then set another.

  4. Maintain closer communication with your supervisor. Depending on your superior’s style, you’ll probably want to maintain a tighter communications loop, especially early on. As part of the process of managing up, you’ve already determined their favorite method and frequency of communication. Without going overboard, keep them apprised of how things are going, and don’t hesitate to ask for help if something pops up you don’t know how to handle—especially if it’s new to your team and co-workers.

  5. Learn on the job. Most positions require some measure of on-the-job learning, and this is no different. Don’t stop studying once you’re in the new seat and show willingness to put in the extra hours necessary to learn more quickly than normal—whether that means more reading, additional training, or (for the moment) working a few more hours.

Avoiding the Peter Principle

The Peter Principal is a favorite of cynical observers, because it seems so obvious to them; and in fact, it may often come true. You may even have hit a level where you found yourself floundering in a rising tide that somehow wasn’t lifting your boat as promised. But if you’re pushed upward into a position you’re not entirely suited for, you needn’t fail or even flounder. A modicum of preparation will give you an opportunity to put your best foot forward from the beginning, and you, as an intelligent, thoughtful person, can succeed wherever you find yourself.

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

© 2019 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored eight books, including FASTER TOGETHER: Accelerating Your Team’s Productivity (Berrett-Koehler 2018). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and a member of its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at an upcoming meeting or event, call 303-471-7401 or contact us online.

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