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How to Leapfrog Your Way Up the Promotion Ladder

Harvard Business School professor Robert Kaplan says if you want to get promoted “you need to work starting day one on developing a successor.” 

What’s the Big Idea?

Imagine if you could live your life the way you watch a movie on a DVR. You could fast-forward through all the tedious moments and skip right to the good stuff. That was the premise of the 2006 sci-fi comedy Click, starring Adam Sandler. However, as Sandler’s character Michael Newman learns the hard way, you can’t just click your way to success. After Michael learns he will be getting a promotion in a few months, he decides to skip ahead and avoid all of the requisite drudgery required to get that promotion. Unfortunately, Michael ends up skipping a full year instead of a few months, because that’s how long it ended up taking him to get the promotion. He ends up bitter, divorced, sick, fat and alone. 

What did Michael Newman do wrong? Actually, his mistakes in the film are too many to recount in this space. However, according to Robert Kaplan, there are clear steps that employees can take to get promoted, and that managers can take to “get the right people in the right seats.”  The key is succession planning. As Kaplan outlines in his recent book What to Ask the Person in the Mirror: Critical Questions for Becoming a More Effective Leader and Reaching Your Potential, if you make yourself so indispensable in your current position, smart managers will not promote you because they will have no one to replace you with. By the same token, if managers fail to groom their employees and offer “upward mobility and opportunity” they will lose the best talent.  

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This post is part of the series Input/Output, sponsored by HP Input/Output

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.


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