“If you look across the span of an organization, there are a very limited number of spots available at the next level, for you to grow from producer to leader. In general, one out of ten people is going to get promoted to that level. And then, the level above that group is even smaller. So now the one in ten becomes one in ten of your new group, one in ten will go to the next level and then one in ten will go to the next level, and so on and so forth. Ultimately you get to the very top where there is only one, and you can’t go any further.”

This was an explanation I received years ago from my HR director, as a recently promoted manager. He went on to give me this challenge to grow: Will you always be the one in ten? The only way that becomes possible is to grow and keep growing, professionally and personally. You have to constantly work at making yourself promotable.

There are many reasons people may seek a promotion:

  • A sense of recognition or acknowledgment. They want to be acknowledged and recognized for the work that they’ve done.
  • Financial goals. They want to achieve personal financial goals.
  • Career goals. Fulfilling career goals might include running a department, running a division, or being a leader of a team.
  • Competitive drive. Some people are just driven to achieve and are always competing against themselves and others.
  • Perceived expectations. Fulfilling other’s expectations placed upon them – or the perceived expectations of others.

I also worked for a division president who said, “If you can’t make a substantial update to your resume every six months, you’re not growing.” Again, a challenge to keep developing personally and professionally.

Here are some key questions you can ask to see if your results are resume update quality:

  • Are you doing anything significant in your organization? Where are you adding value?
  • Is your team succeeding? Are you meeting, or beating, your KPI’s?
  • Are your customer’s successful? Did you, or your team do something to help a customer experience success (as defined by them, not you)?
  • Have you learned something new? And if so, how has it helped in any of the three areas above?

Those two things, the one in ten questions and the resume questions, created a new mindset for me, and several of my peers. Many of us went on to be promoted multiple times and ended up doing quite well. It was a mindset of constantly developing, constantly investing in ourselves to grow, and then investing in our teams.

Investing in your team pays off best when you’ve taken the time to invest in yourself first.

As my mentor and friend, John Maxwell often says, “Growth doesn’t just happen.” You have to be intentional about it – every day.

What’s your growth plan? If you don’t have one, get one. If you do have one, it’s time to check it over to make sure it’s still got you headed in the right direction.

Next time, we’ll take a look at where most people struggle when they get promoted to a leadership position.