How to survive a promotion

2014

After all those late nights, the hard work, networking and lobbying, you've finally been promoted. Well done. But now what? Getting promoted is only the beginning and you have no guarantees that you will succeed in your new role. How can you ensure you make the transition as smooth as possible, not just surviving, but thriving post-promotion?

Clarify your new goals

The signs that you're succeeding in your new role may be very different from the success measures that applied to your old one. So as soon as possible, get guidance and clarity on what your goals, objectives, KPIs – whatever they're called in your organisation – are and how you'll all know you've achieved them.

Don't accept being told "keep doing what you've been doing". You need unequivocal short- and long-term targets so you can plan the steps to success.

Don't do your old job

Once you've got clear goals, you will be able to focus on priorities. Which means that, as well as having a 'to do' list, you need to start a 'not to do' list. And much of that will be tasks you're no longer going to do, because they belong in your old job.

It's tempting to hang on to the tasks we enjoy and have become good at, but if you try to do your old job and your new one at the same time you risk burning out. Not only that, but you risk not delivering what's now expected of you, and depriving team members of opportunities to develop. You need to figure out what those 'not to do' tasks are and get your manager's agreement, then decide who is best placed to take over from you.

Delegate work, don't dump it

This can be a pinch point for newly promoted people, as they try to step up to new responsibilities and simultaneously teach others to take on new tasks. Both can be time consuming, so don't attempt the whole thing at once. Nor should you just dump the routine stuff you've been itching to get rid of on your team.

Have a time frame that allows you to teach, train and coach your team to do the work they'll be taking on so that they can develop the skills they need. Set 1:1s and catch-ups in your calendar to check in and support them, being clear that you're available, but not constantly.

When you delegate effectively you give people clear outcomes, examples and timings, and the autonomy to get the job done. As your team gains momentum you will be able to back off and monitor without meddling.

Get the feedback habit

Don't wait until someone's appraisal to tell them how they're doing. Some employees can have an inflated sense of their capability and others can be really hard on themselves. It's your job to tell people how they're doing.

Get in the habit of giving clear feedback, based on the actual behaviour you've observed. Don't launch into monologues or sandwich criticism with praise – that will only cause confusion – instead be clear, specific and brief. Aim for more positive than developmental feedback, which means praising more often than many of us are accustomed to.

On the flip side, ask for feedback from your team, and be prepared to ask questions to gently find the facts behind their views.

Get a mentor

Stepping up can be daunting and it's not the best career move to keep asking your line manager for advice and guidance on how things work – this is where a mentor can really help. Ideally this person will have experience and knowledge of your organisation, what it does and how it does it. They may be a senior manager or a former employee now semi-retired, someone who is well-versed in the organisation's culture, or 'how we do things round here'.

Your mentor shouldn't be your line manager, whose focus is on day-to-day tasks, delivering results through the people on the team. Your mentor's focus is on you and the wider organisation. Some professional bodies provide access to mentors, so check out yours.

If you're stuck for a mentor – maybe your organisation is too small or doesn't endorse the idea – check out the free and low-cost options online. Work with your mentor to identify ways to progress and use them as a sounding board for your ideas.

Build your network

As well as working on your relationship with your line manager and getting a mentor, building your network will help you thrive post-promotion. Start by getting to know your new peers better, for example in regular departmental or management meetings (so don't just grab a seat next to the person you know best).

You don't have to book a lot of long lunches – in fact, best not to as it might be seen as self-aggrandising – just stop and chat with people, a few at a time. Reach beyond your immediate part of the business, across the organisation as well as upwards.

If you're not sure what to say, start by asking some simple questions, such as 'what's keeping you busy at the moment?' and 'what's new in [their area of the business]?'

Look after yourself

When you're stepping up to a new role, it can be tempting to work all hours putting the extra effort in and then wonder why you're burning out. Instead, take care of your wellbeing.

So eat for energy, not to give in to cravings or emotional triggers, and use meal times to catch up with colleagues and your network beyond the immediate team. Get enough sleep – it can really help the quality of your sleep to observe a technology curfew at least an hour before bedtime. Exercise is a great stress reliever and many successful executives start the day with a run, workout, or yoga session – do what works for you, maybe with a buddy so you can keep each other motivated.

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About The Author

Dawn Sillett
Dawn Sillett

Dawn Sillett is Managing Director of UK-based Zoomly, which specialises in focused training and coaching to help people boost performance and accelerate their career progress. She is the author of 'How to be Zoomly at Work', which is available online now.