[Personal Branding] What Does It take To Get A Promotion?


I think as far as self-promotion goes, I probably have a lot to learn.

Quote attribute to: Chris Isaak




Ever wondered why you seem to be passed over for promotion despite having good performance reviews?

Feeling like there are some secret rules for success in your organization and nobody has told you about them?

When I worked at P&G, every employee was provided a set of “What Counts Factors” that set a performance expectation. The factors collectively described what good looked like. But, we also had a grassroots developed criteria we called the “What Really Counts Factors”. These helped explain why good performance was necessary, but not sufficient to get promoted.

What Really Counts?

Performance: Consistently meeting or exceeding the expectations of your job. This is absolutely required for success.

Image: How you are perceived in the organization. Is your attitude positive or negative? Do you lead with solutions to issues, or are you the one who creates roadblocks to getting things done?

Exposure: Do the people who make promotion decisions know you? Are you considered a thought leader in your field?

The shorthand description is P.I.E. (performance, image, exposure). You need all three to get promoted. In my experience the people at P&G who tended to be passed over more often than not were missing one or more of these three “What Really Counts” factors.

In Harvey Coleman’s book Empowering Yourself, The Organizational Game Revealed he claims performance accounts for only 10% of the equation for promotion. Working hard is necessary, but clearly not sufficient for moving up.

For perspective, Image represented 30% of the promotion readiness decision and Exposure accounted for the remaining 60%.

You Can Bust Your Behind And Still Be Left Behind

I found the idea that performance was not the driver of promotion decisions disturbing. But, the more I thought about it the more sense it made.

You see, the world is made up of a lot of competent people. (I know on any given day it may not feel that way) Consequently, competence is a commodity.

To get promoted, you have to stand out from your peer set. You need to be viewed as having above average capability and capacity to perform. At P&G it was critical you be seen as a leader. Failure to be judged as a leader meant your career was capped. I am guessing P&G is not unique in that respect.

What Can You Do To Improve Your Chance Of Promotion?

First, be excellent at your job. If you fail to do this, there is little you can do to be seen as promotion ready.

Second, strengthen your social game. Get to know your Management team and give them an opportunity to get to know you. People who get promoted create strong trust bonds. You can’t do so without interactions. Your immediate manager can help you get additional exposure, but probably not enough. You have to be proactive and hold yourself personally accountable. To be clear, this doesn’t mean you need to join the local country club. You can find ways to get positive exposure. For example, by volunteering to help on initiatives like the United Way Drive (or whatever is appropriate in your company), giving educational presentations to help build organizational mastery, serve on committees in your community that can have an influence on your company’s success. Find something that makes sense for you and commit to making it happen.

Do You Want A Bigger Piece Of The PIE?

Think about you own career and the careers of your colleagues. For those who have been successful, can you see the P.I.E criteria at play? What about those who have been passed over for promotion? Are they failing on one or more of the P.I.E criteria?

I am confident adding P.I.E. to your personal branding plan will help you achieve your maximum success potential. There are a lot of people who do good work. You need to stand out from your peers to get promoted and while good work is necessary it is far from sufficient.

Join the conversation and let me know what you think.  Even better, if you know somebody who is frustrated with their career progress forward the link to this blog post.

If you would like more information on personal branding, here is a LINK to helpful references.


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