The Politics of Promotion

Summary Written by Karina Mikhli
"Workplaces are highly political environments where decisions about who gets ahead, who gets more compensation, and who gets access to scarce resources are not based on performance alone. Our naïve assumption that our performance will guarantee a successful career is a dangerous one. This assumption results in thousands of women being blindsided. And it happens every day."

- The Politics of Promotion, page xi

The Big Idea

Promotion Is a Leadership Skill

"If you are waiting for someone to promote you, you are wasting your time. It is essential to build your reputation across the organization. You need to promote yourself. You need to promote your team."- The Politics of Promotion, page 41

Like many of the women Bonnie discusses, I too considered “politics” to be the equivalent of a four letter word. Only in recent years have I come to recognize how important it is, and that it not only helps you get ahead, but that it also can be used for the benefit of your team.

As Bonnie points out, self-promotion and being politically savvy are leadership skills and need to be recognized as such. How else can a leader advocate for her team unless she is comfortable promoting her value and that of her team’s, and has the appropriate relationships and influence to be heard. All of this requires political savviness.

And all of this starts by recognizing your—and your team’s—unique value proposition. In other words, what value do you and only you provide? Knowing this and being able to articulate it will help you network, attract sponsors, and get political influence.

Bonnie gives an example of a COO who had a difficult relationship with her CEO until she realized that her ability to provide him detailed information helped him make decisions more quickly. Once she recognized this and started giving him status reports from this perspective, he appreciated her and her value to him much more, and their relationship improved drastically.

Insight #1

Establish an Affirming Mindset

"A daily practice of journaling your successes can actually change your brain chemistry. It is possible to create new neural pathways that will reset your default thinking to be positive and self-affirming. "- The Politics of Promotion, page 65

So you recognize that to become a leader, you have to promote yourself and your team. You even know your unique value proposition and its importance, but do you have the self-confidence to own it and share it? Or like many women, do you often doubt yourself?

Bonnie shares what bestselling author Marci Shimoff explained during a guest interview. She called our mindset “Teflon” when it comes to praises—they won’t stick—but “Velcro” when it comes to self-doubt.

How do we change this? Bonnie recommends keeping a daily journal of your successes. Not only can the act of writing them down help you become more positive, but when you review them at the end of the week and see the pattern of your accomplishments, it will make it easier to own it—and to promote it to others in your company.

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Insight #2

Network Strategically

"To network effectively, you need to move out of your comfort zone and identify people who can help your career, not just those people you like. Strategic networking is more than socializing and swapping business cards: it’s creating solid relationships inside and outside the company to support your career aspirations. It takes focus and intention to build such a network, but it’s invaluable for your professional development."- The Politics of Promotion, page 107

Unlike socializing, strategic networking is all about political influence. As Bonnie explains, many women look for mentors and sponsors in those they respect and want to emulate, but these people don’t always have enough power to help them (or their teams). Instead, you should try to establish an open network and look for people who can help you professionally.

And since networking needs to be reciprocal, this is where knowing your unique value proposition and having the confidence to promote it will help. The same goes for acquiring a sponsor, something few women have but can make all the difference in getting ahead. Unlike a mentor who just advises, sponsors actually use their own political capital to help you advance. They do so because they believe in you and by aligning themselves with you, expect to broaden their network, influence, or access to information.

Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, whether you enjoy socializing or not, becoming more politically willing and savvy is essential to getting ahead professionally. It is not enough to just do well and work hard, you need to be sure that the right people know of your successes. You also then need to familiarize yourself with the unwritten rules of your culture and company, with who are the decision makers and influencers, and with who you need to connect with to get ahead. All this starts with being willing and just paying attention.

Read the book

Get The Politics of Promotion on Amazon.

Bonnie Marcus

Award winning entrepreneur, Forbes and Business Insider contributing writer, Bonnie Marcus, M.Ed., has real conversations for real women about real situations in the workplace today. As the President of Women’s Success Coaching, Bonnie assists professional women to successfully navigate the workplace and position and promote themselves to advance their careers.

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