Last Updated on 14 April 2011

Sand for Your Inbox
September 2008

Receiving a job promotion is exciting, but adjusting your work-style for the new role and responsibilities can be a challenge.

I provided an email with tips to a friend recently promoted from a manager to director role.

After sending, I realized… not only is this advice helpful for adjusting to a rung higher-up the company ladder, but also great for those seeking a promotion, and as a refresher at any point in your career.

Below is what I shared… Enjoy!

Use this advice if you’re new in your role, or if you want to re-energize your current job.

(1) Earn Your New Title

Don’t feel you’re entitled to the role. Yes, you deserve it… Nevertheless, simply having the title doesn’t make you smarter nor ensure respect… You still have to earn them.

So, “be” the director!

(2) Add Value

Don’t let anything move through you without adding value. I don’t mean to change things for the sake of changing things. However, with everything you come in contact with (from major programs to status reports), ask yourself…

“How can I make this better?
How can I add my touch to it?
How can I improve it?”

It could be as simple as making data easier to understand with a graph or as involved as re-inventing an entire process.

(3) Be Professional

I don’t know how you acted before, but you need to be as professional as possible at work and around your colleagues. If you did it before, you need to quit the gossip and wining about “them” not fixing broken things.

People are going to be looking up to you to set an example. Gossip makes you look weak. And, you can’t whine about what is broken, because YOU are now “them!”

(4) You = Solutions

Don’t let problems getting past you without a solution.

You should no longer talk to your boss about problems you are having without having solutions in mind. (Actually this is advice for ANY level). This doesn’t mean you have to fix a problem that is bigger than you can handle… just don’t show up to your boss with “I don’t know what to do about this problem!” – if you need help, show up with… “I discovered this problem, this is my recommended fix… in your experience do you think this is best?” (This way you show up as a problem solver – adding value – not just a problem finder).

(5) Make a Plan

One difference between a lower and a higher level role is how far you can see toward the horizon. When you’re a manager, you see 18-months out. Longer than that is often out of your control. As a director, you’re planning for a broader future, perhaps 24 to 36 months out. Yes, I know… plans change on a daily basis. Nevertheless, you should establish three or four goals for your department that span 36-months out.

A piece of advice for this longer-term planning… Instead of thinking of where you are today and how you’ll go forward to achieve your end goal, start AT your future goal and work your way backward. Outline the resources that “got” you there. This will prevent you from making too many assumptions.

Finally, refer to this big picture plan to guide decision making and to gauge your progress.

(6) The Big Painting Is Made up of Small Brush Strokes

You will be expected to be more strategic now…. A bigger thinker. Be that. But also recognize that you probably won’t get away from the day-to-day minutia. Thinking the details are below your pay grade is a common misconception.

Reality is, you’re now responsible for both strategy AND the details. The day-to-day is what equals the week… and the weeks the month… and the months, the quarter… So, I “get” that you don’t want to get stuck in the details because it can take away from your big picture thinking… but honestly… you still have to be connected to the details.

I don’t know if you have people reporting to you… if you do, THEY need to manage the day to day details (get the work done), and you are still responsible if those small tasks aren’t accomplished.

(7) Do the Work at Your Level, and the Level Above You

While you need to be yourself, you need to realize that you are at a new level. People will perceive you as more mature in your job when you act that way. The secret is to do the work of your job, but perform like the role above you. So, now you should DO the work of a director, but perform like a V.P. (How do they go above and beyond? How do they think ahead?)

(8) Buy This Book

This book offers the best tips and techniques for managing yourself and others.

Click on the link below, and buy it today.

The Unofficial Guide to Power Management
(Amazon US) (Amazon UK)
by Alan Weiss

No, really. It’s awesome.

(9) Fix What’s Broken, Enhance What’s Not

Figure out what’s broken and fix it. Simultaneously, figure out what doesn’t exist that will make things better.

A good way to plan for this – and I use this technique with Idea Sandbox clients – is to make a list of things to “STOP, START & CONTINUE”:

STOP (stuff that isn’t working), START (stuff that should exist), and CONTINUE (stuff that works you should keep and/or enhance).

(10) Make Yourself Obsolete

A good leader works to replace herself. In addition to your everyday goals, an additional goal is to develop someone else to replace you. You should be teaching the people below you the lessons to take your job. In X months you should be able to go to your boss and say…

“Whelp, Paul is ready to do my job.
He is fully capable of replacing me.”

Of course you may not really want to say that… However, it should be your goal in 12 months to have someone ready to replace you. If you’ve done the right things to make that happen, more than likely, you will be ready to be promoted yourself!

(11) Have Fun

Yah. Have fun. Make it a fun place to work. You’re the “them” that makes the difference. Work hard, but don’t make it hard work.

Let me know what you think. Any other ideas work for you?

Congratulations in your “new” role,
Paul's First Name

Paul Williams
ready to be promoted
Idea Sandbox

Idea Sandbox • Seattle | Amsterdam