I've received a lot of requests lately from seemingly ambitious professionals who are frustrated in their jobs.
Primarily, they feel they aren't being promoted fast enough. They tell me about the great work they do and how they feel it's unfair because the executive team is failing to recognize their efforts. They come to me looking for ways to position themselves as executive-level talent.
It's funny, I remember feeling the exact same way when I was a younger professional! I would get so frustrated and think, "I can't wait until I'm the boss.”
Executives Approach Work Differently
Well, fast forward 20 years and I've not only climbed the corporate ladder to the executive suite, I've been on the inside and heard what criteria executives use to determine who is worthy of climbing the ranks.
Trust me when I say they are looking for people who consistently display certain traits. Which means, you aren't going to get promoted to the C-suite unless you know what they are.
While you may do well in the organization and even make it to the middle management level, here are six reasons why the executives in your company don't see you joining them some day. They are:
1. You don't get up early.
Most successful executives I know have done more by 8:00 AM than the average worker. They are mentally focused on maximizing every minute of their day. That quiet time first thing in the morning is prime time for them.
They use it to their advantage – and it pays off.
While you are catching extra Z's they are reading industry blogs, writing important communications, catching up on e-mails, mapping out business strategies, doing online research, and much more. They use this time to create competitive advantage over their peers.
2. You don't take care of yourself.
The stress level of the executive lifestyle is not for the faint of heart. Executives don't need others to put pressure on them.
They put enough pressure on themselves. They are highly motivated to achieve results. This intensity needs a physical and mental outlet. Working out gives the executives I know a chance for their bodies and minds to get a much needed release from their focus on work. It also keeps them in shape and gives them the energy needed to keep up their intensity.
By choosing to commit to an exercise regime, you not only show your ability to care for yourself, you show personal discipline – a trait considered vital to executive success. You must be able to show you can self motivate and stay committed to a process. Being a regular exerciser demonstrates that.
3. You don't look or act the part.
Executives place a lot of importance on appearance. Why? They see themselves as the "face” of the company and are always concerned about making the right impression.
There is a famous quote that applies to executives: People hear what they see. Which means, if you don't look healthy, pulled together, and confident, you don't look like you can handle the physical and mental demands of being and executive.
Furthermore, if you don't care about your appearance, the assumption is you probably don't care about a lot of other things too. Proving you are executive material starts with dressing and acting like a member of the executive team.
Take a closer look at your C-suite. Do you honestly look like you'd fit in? If not, it's time to change the clothes, hair and attitude to match the group you wish to be a part of.
4. You don't work more than 40 hour/week.
The idea of work-life balance is a personal thing. Somewhere along the line, somebody said working more than 40 hours creates a bad work-life balance. Executives don't see it that way.
Instead, they see working the extra hours as an opportunity to get ahead.
They use the time to gain knowledge and skills that get them to the next level.
Think about it: If you want to get better at a computer game, what do you do? You spend more time playing!
Well, executives see it the same way.
The more they play the work game, the better they get. They have no problem working nights and weekends from home because they know it will get them to their goal faster. As a result, they look to promote people to their team that play the game they way they do.
Which means, they don't care if you have an hour-long commute each way or family commitments that require your time. That's your private life and up to you to deal with. All they care about is how committed you are to being the best.
Running a company requires a high-level of commitment. Investing time beyond 40 hours is proof you'll be willing to do what it takes to make the business succeed.
5. You don't add major value.
Doing your job well is not enough. Smart executives know to get what they want, they must be of extreme value to their bosses. In short, they look for ways to make their manager's life easier.
When an employee solves a major problem or creates a new revenue stream, they are seen as adding incredible value to the organization. Doing what you are told isn't enough. You need to go the extra mile and think like an owner of the business. Find ways to be seen as indispensable by taking over projects and headaches your boss has to deal with. Make life better for your boss and you'll find yourself being invited to move up the corporate ladder.
6. You don't manage up.
Your boss is in charge. Like it or not, they call the shots. You need to always respect the fact your boss has some control over your career. I don't care how invaluable you think you are to your boss. Nor does it matter you've been working for your boss for years. They are paying you to do your job and they owe you nothing beyond that.
Which means, you could be on the street tomorrow.
At the same time, you should recognize if you can learn to manage up, you can have more control over the situation.
Help your boss be more organized. Give your boss exactly what he or she needs to make good decisions. And above all else, NEVER directly challenge your manager's decisions.
Instead, offer suggestions that can guide them to the answer or solution you want. Trust me when I say employees who frustrate a boss do not rise to the top. Asking too many questions or being negative about a project they have assigned you is not smart. Executives don't promote people who annoy them. Your goal is to learn how to work with your boss in a way that gets you what you want AND satisfies their needs. A boss who likes having you around because you reduce their stress and workload, as opposed to adding to it, is the key to getting promoted – it's that simple.
Are you thinking: "Forget that. I'm not a suck up work-o-holic. This list is stupid.”
If you are, then you are proving my point.
You see, not everyone is meant to be an executive.
The people you see in those roles choose of their own free will to be there. They do the things listed above because they want to be in the C-suite. If you don't, that's okay, but understand you are making a choice as well.
What's the alternative?
You could choose to start your own company and create your own set of executive criteria from day one. But, I guarantee you'll soon find it's not as easy as it sounds. If dumping your job in Corporate America to work for yourself was that easy, more people would be doing it.
Remember: Being an Executive is a Choice, Not a Right
There's a reason many people chose to be regular employees and don't rise to the executive level: Their career isn't a top priority.
Like I said, it's a life choice. But, please don't knock executives for choosing to do the things above. Especially, if you don't want them knocking you for choosing not to.
This is a free country, remember?
Just showing up to your job and doing it well doesn't automatically guarantee you a promotion. You get paid to do the job you do. If you want more, you have to do more. Especially, if you want to be an executive.
What's the First Step to Getting Started?
Opt in on the next page for my FREE e-guide, "4 Ways Executives Are Using Social Media for Professional Branding.”
In it, I'll show you how to build showcase four executives who are leveraging the most popular social media tools for effective Executive Branding campaigns.
About J.T. O'Donnell
Career Strategist. Workplace Consultant. Syndicated Author. Wife and Mother. CEO, CAREEREALISM. CEO, CareerHMO. Host, Career Rehab.