Recently, I had a leader reach out to me to discuss his current career path. He was very committed to knowing what he needed to do to stand out and get his next promotion. Naturally, we discussed the conversation he had had with his CEO. They had discussed projects that he could become involved in; however, he wasn’t sure that those projects would actually get him promoted.
This is one of the issues I encounter regularly when people are interested in getting their next promotion. They want a checklist solution and lose sight of the purpose behind taking on more responsibility and working on those “extra” projects. While completing a big project that’s important to the boss is a great way to demonstrate competence and might ultimately get you promoted, it isn’t the actual point of doing the work.
The way to earn that next promotion is to learn as much as you can and help as much as you can, period. This is what brings value to the business, to the team, and to the boss.
We forget that when we are attempting to accomplish a goal or complete a project that there is an immense opportunity for learning along the way. And we forget that we aren’t doing the project just to help ourselves; we are also helping everyone around us.
Therefore, learn as much as you can and help as much as you can. When we are engaged in our work in this way, it is no longer about just striving for the next step up the ladder in our career. We begin to appreciate the value in all of the experience that we are gaining along the way. When we view our role as being a part of a team working towards something larger, we gain the support and trust of those around us–we are seen as a person who is concerned with more than just their professional advancement.
Interestingly, in doing so we also practice two of the most critical skills for being a world-class leader: learning and helping. Great leaders naturally do both of these things. They are skills that they have developed along the way by taking on more responsibility and working on all of those seemingly insignificant projects.