I receive a lot of inquiries from leaders who don’t understand why they haven’t advanced in their careers. Often, they don’t realize the magnitude of being in a stagnant position nor have they interpreted the important signals that have come their way.
Once they agree that the following scenarios have occurred it becomes apparent that they may have been identified as “not executive material” and that a strategy is needed to ascend the plateau.
You’ve been told they will look outside the organization to fill the position you want.
This is code for “We don’t have anyone internally of whom we think highly enough to mentor or put in the position.” Unless the opening is for an executive management position or a new skill specific role, this also speaks to the company’s lack of leadership development as an organization. Ask what specific qualities they are looking for in a capable leader. If you can’t get a firm answer, start looking.
You’ve been told, “You’re not ready.”
That might be. So, ask, “What specifically would I need to have, know or exhibit to be ready?” Press for a firm answer. Get a commitment that if you achieve certain measurable milestones you would like to be considered for a promotion or leadership development program. Ask for a mentor or sponsor within the organization. Ask if they will invest in a coach for your career development. It will be far less costly than most out of town conferences.
You’ve been passed over for a promotion.
This happens often. If you were not granted a promotion that you formally applied for use the same tactics listed above.
You’ve been told, “You are overqualified.”
This is an excuse for another reason. The candidate sometimes thinks he has been a victim of age bias. That could be the case. What I see more often is that the candidate didn’t interview well or figure out a way to position her unique value proposition in alignment with the culture and pulse of the organization. He didn’t “wow” the hiring manager.
You’ve been told, “You don’t have presence.”
This means they think you lack the gravitas to lead. Leaders speak with certainty. They have even temperaments, know what they want, don’t overreact and send non-verbal cues that command authority. They are self-assured enough to risk new strategies yet have the humility to admit what they don’t know. Watch YouTube videos of three people you feel have great presence. Make a list of what you like. Then spend one week developing one skill from each of them at a time. Keep track of it in a record.
You aren’t invited to strategic planning sessions.
This is a strong indication that you have been overlooked as a critical thinker. Don’t just ask to be included. Earn a place at the table. Spearhead a project of utmost importance to the strategic goals of the organization. Research and start to develop it. Show how you will measure the results. Then share it with a key member of the team who you trust. If it raises eyebrows, ask for a seat at the table.
When you speak key leaders don’t pay attention.
Watch their eyes. If they look away they are not interested in your opinion. Build your presence. Listen better. Speak only when you have taken in everyone else’s opinion and say something that raises eyebrows.
You can’t get an appointment with a key leader.
If they won’t meet with you, you are off the radar screen.