All too often, at different types of companies, we hear from our clients that the promotional process is a big mystery. People don’t know why they received their recent promotion, nor do they know what is required to achieve the next career level up.

These are not uneducated people nor are they professional neophytes. Most of them have been in the corporate world for some time. Yet the ways of management remain baffling, frustrating, and sometimes quite suspicious. Words like “political,” “opportunistic,” and “self-serving” are sprinkled through conversations aimed at trying to figure out how to understand what’s going on in the promotional arena.

While many of our clients have been savvy enough to not fall victim to company politics, some of them have been so averse to being caught up in the mystery they’ve decided they need to work for themselves as a form of protection resigning and in short order creating a start up under their own command.

So what can managers do to help correct this confusion?

The promotional process needs to be spelled out for all concerned. That means that every level of management and all employees need to be on the same page about this process.

I recommend that you develop a process that incorporates all or at least some of these elements, as well as others that I hope to hear about in your Comments:

— OKRs
OKRs stands for Objectives and Key Results.
It is a method that many corporations of all sizes now utilize, requiring their employees to define and track their objectives and their outcomes.

When a manager reviews an employee’s OKRs, s/he needs to provide feedback as to the appropriate level of scope, challenge, and potential growth—both in the development of the list and then in the review of results—as measures of professional competence, growth, and future career implications.

— Performance Reviews
Some companies do not require managers to provide full disclosure feedback to their team members regarding how they were rated during Performance Reviews. This is a huge error as it leaves managers unaccountable and team members in the dark.

No matter what form of Performance Review you utilize in your company, this is a process that needs to be aimed at providing detailed information to the recipient about where they are in the career building process, the promotional process, and for some the exit process. Critique and Recognition should both be provided so that excellent performance is acknowledged while critique provides the guidelines for professional and career growth.

— One-on-One Behavior and Availability
All too often managers overlook or even ignore both excellent as well as acting out behavior of team members during coaching/management/supervision sessions. Sometimes it’s the result of bad behavior by the manager—coming late, last-minute cancellations, taking phone calls during meetings for example—but oftentimes it’s simply ignored as a venue for professional evaluation.

By that I don’t mean the content of the meeting. I’m talking about the opportunity to evaluate and provide feedback on the employee’s conduct. Are they on time? Are they prepared? Do they present themselves in a professional manner? How well do they accept critical and/or praiseworthy feedback (both are important)? Do they engage in providing you feedback? Do they leave on time or try to get extra advantage by pushing the time boundary? This list is practically endless when you start paying attention to your employee’s behavior and not just the content of what they present.

— Ownership and Accomplishments
Not only can you acknowledge and appreciate a team member’s ownership over a project that they helped imagine, plan, spear-head, and bring to life, you can acknowledge that person’s visionary leadership beyond current projects, their ability to inspire with lofty but real BHAGs - Big Hairy Audacious Goals.

Don’t ignore speaking ability and presentation bookings outside the company, nor do you want to ignore professional publications and/or patents for the company. Anything that amplifies the individual’s ability to lead, motivate, and promote can be important elements of your promotional consideration.

— Leadership and Mentoring
It’s important that your promotional candidates exemplify your company’s culture and we trust that running meetings with confidence, control, and caring are part of that. Therefore it’s important that you observe how well your candidates run their own team meetings and yours when appropriate as they should be able to stand in for you when that’s called for.

How well do they stand in for and represent you at meetings you cannot attend (getting feedback from your colleagues who are there)? How well do they mentor people who are not on their own team re: career development, professional behavior, leadership presence, managing up to executives, etc? This will require you to get feedback from the mentees and perhaps even the mentees’ supervisors/managers.

— The Key
The key is public clarity about promotional requirements and evaluation processes so that everyone knows the roadmap and the important “street signs” that are used to get to a promotion. Your values may be very different from what I’ve just suggested and that’s fine. But either way, your definitive promotional specifics will help your employees and/or team members feel informed, trusting, and clear about how to proceed.

What have you found are the most important elements that set someone up for promotional success within your business?

Author's Bio: 

Judith Sherven, PhD and her husband Jim Sniechowski, PhD have developed a penetrating perspective on people’s resistance to success, which they call The Fear of Being Fabuloustm. Recognizing the power of unconscious programming to always outweigh conscious desires, they assert that no one is ever failing—they are always succeeding. The question is, at what? To learn about how this played out in the life of Whitney Houston, check out

Currently working as consultants on retainer to LinkedIn providing executive coaching, leadership training and consulting as well as working with private clients around the world, they continually prove that when unconscious beliefs are brought to the surface, the barriers to greater success and leadership presence begin to fade away. They call it Overcoming the Fear of Being Fabulous