T minus 90 and Counting

“Make me redundant, Sam” is what my line boss said to me. I was two years into my job at that time, and he pushed me to grow. That statement said a lot to me: that I was ready for growth and capable, that I had his support, that it was up to me to go there, and that he was unafraid of his own position.

A great deal has been written about the first 90 days in a new job. An equally important issue is getting to that job: preparing for growth. I call this T minus 90. Without suggesting 90 days are sufficient to demonstrate growth for promotion, my intention is to state that preparation for growth has to start before the promotion. It’s almost like doing the job before the title becomes yours.

Here are ten things to help you prepare. Choose what’s most applicable to you.

1. Collaborate: This is bigger than learning to work with others or with diverse teams. At its very essence it is the need to give up control. From being used to doing all the work, you learn to take a step back, define what needs to be done, identify the best talent to do it, and ensure it gets done.

2. Take responsibility: Closely linked to collaboration. Involving others in the task doesn’t absolve you of responsibility. Indeed it increases responsibility, since you are now accountable for the results of someone else’s action. It can be daunting at first, but taking responsibility is a key growth skill. Learn it well.

3. Change pronouns: Learn to look at things, plan, implement and follow through from a perspective of ‘we’, not ‘I’. You could use ‘I’ when stating your point of view, and that’s about it. But everything else has to be from a ‘we’ perspective. The more you believe in joint ownership (brand, objective, task etc.) the more you will convey that belief and build a team.

4. Drive consensus: Encourage debates, ensure plans are challenged, learn to hear different opinions, and uncover unstated misgivings. Spend time with people and teams to ensure everyone is on board. It’s time consuming work, but essential.

5. Resolve issues: Problems and setbacks are constant companions of progress. Take charge and address them head on. Tackle the tough issues. If you cannot, or if issues are large, make sure they are escalated to the right level. But take responsibility for solving them. It builds trust in your team.

6. Have a POV: Demonstrate the courage of conviction. Spend the time to think through issues and develop a point of view on important issues. When you share it with your team, it becomes a rallying point. When you share it with your superiors, you show you’re ready to think beyond the immediate.

7. Look into details: It’s not the most exciting work, but someone has to do it. Stay comfortable with details, know them well. You will always be seen as the knowledge centre on the subject. Use this knowledge well in planning and monitoring progress and you will build expertise that will be tough to challenge.

8. Volunteer: There will always be issues requiring attention, but not directly related to your immediate job. Volunteer to address them. It’s a great way to get to know and be comfortable with different aspects of the business. Do this in addition to your regular job. Don’t worry about resources; you will almost always get extra help, as long as you take responsibility.

9. Share your plan: Sit down with your boss and share your plan of preparing for growth. Go into details and list out what you feel is necessary, asking for input. Make it a conversation, and give it time if needed. But ensure your boss knows your plan. A good boss would welcome this conversation, and you will have enlisted your boss’s support.

10. Be your toughest critic: Your progress on your path to growth will be measured by several factors, and the KPIs you would have agreed with your boss. However, how you get there is under your control. Ensure you’re always looking to improve how you do things by becoming and staying your toughest critic.

Business is dynamic, and nothing can guarantee you will be promoted. But by taking steps towards preparing for growth you give yourself the best chance for promotion, while ensuring you work within the organisation’s best interests. It’s a case of win-win all around.

All the best.

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