If you’re an employee who wants to move up the ranks in construction, Michael Wenderoth, author of Get Promoted: What You're Really Missing at Work That's Holding You Back, has some evidenced-based advice you should heed.
Wenderoth, an executive coach, wrote his book as a way to help qualified employees better understand why they aren’t being promoted, and to give them the skills they need to move up in their organization.
However, in a tight labor market, there is also a lesson for construction business owners and senior leadership. A lack of transparency about the promotion process may lead qualified workers to feel so undervalued they seek opportunities elsewhere.
“I think if companies look at themselves, they will be scared at what they find,” says Wenderoth. “There is typically quite a bit of bias in their decisions.”
1: Building power, navigating politics, and managing key stakeholders are the top skills you need to be promoted
“There’s good research that shows your political skills are a much greater determinant of being promoted than your intelligence or your hard work,” says Wenderoth. “It’s more about your ability to influence, your network, and how you interact with – and are perceived by -- others.”
Wenderoth advises clients to evaluate five people who have been promoted. “Look at their backgrounds, the jobs they did, who they spend time with, and how they show up,” says Wenderoth. Then do the same for five people who weren’t promoted.
Once you realize what competencies your organization values, you can either adapt to the culture by developing a plan that builds on those skills that are valued or you can move to a different organization that may be a better fit.
2: Create a power map that shows who you need to impress to get the promotion you want
While it may be obvious who you need to impress to get that promotion, other times it’s not. A power map defines who you need to reach. Your research might start with a conversation with your manager, but you also need to understand the entire political landscape. Build your network among those who make promotion decisions.
“You don’t give yourself a promotion,” says Wenderoth. “It behooves you to understand both the formal and informal process of promotions.”
3: Understand what’s important to the people in power
“To impress the right people, you should be looking at the types of things they are focused on, that they care about,” says Wenderoth. Some examples might be growing revenue, cost-control measures, leveraging new technology, or even “pet projects” that are important to those individuals.
Once you know what matters, there are various approaches you can take to get the right people to notice you. Wenderoth calls this “Building the Snowball.” It’s the actions that build your network and make your work more visible to stakeholders.
Here are a few strategies to consider:
- Join a cross-functional team. This can help build awareness for your work in other areas of the company.
- Share technology skills. Many companies within construction are seeking to advance their use of technology. If you have these skills, look for ways you can use your knowledge to solve the issues that are important to those in power.
- Promote your efforts on social media. If social media is embraced by your company, LinkedIn can be an effective way to communicate your successes.
4: Train your replacement
When your role in the construction industry is focused on getting the work done, it leaves little time for “looking up” and building your network. “The higher you are positioned in an organization, the more your role will be focused on getting others to do things, rather than doing them yourself,” says Wenderoth. “It will be hard to promote you if there isn’t someone to do the work you currently do.”
5: Reframe how you think about political skills and power
You’re not alone if you feel uncomfortable with building political skills. “Political skills and power have negative connotations, because of the popular press,” says Wenderoth. “But when you look at the base definition, power is nothing more than a force that can be harnessed to get great things done.” Wenderoth works with clients to help them reframe how they think about these skills. Instead, he suggests that they think about how using these skills might actually get more done and help them serve their own objectives.
If you are unhappy because you’ve been passed over for a promotion, a fresh look at how promotion decisions are made, and by whom, can provide you with the insight you need to reach your goals, either with your current company, or a new one.