Principle 1: Performance

Now that we’ve covered the basics of this site and explained a more about what Promotion Principles are about, let’s spend the next few posts getting into each of the 5 principles.

Today we’ll start with the Promotion Principle #1: Performance.

Performance: What it’s about and why it matters.

Performance is about your ability to produce strong results and be seen as a top performer. This is where it all starts. It represents the table stakes to a successful career and is the most obvious factor associated with advancing.

Produce Results

It goes without saying that the better you are at your job—the more results you deliver that positively impact the business—the easier it will be to advance your career and earn promotions. This means you know your stuff. You’re an expert in your field, and continually strive to expand your knowledge and skills.

How You Produce Results Matters

How you produce results matters too. Meaning, it’s important to be easy to work with and get along well with others. You need to work in an ethical way and follow the rules. And you want others to enjoy working with you.

Results Need to Be Associated Back to You

It’s also true that producing results that aren’t associated back to you is problematic. And this can be a big source of pain for passed-over professionals. You not only need to deliver exceptional results, but you need to be seen as the source/reason for the results. Not your boss. Not your coworker.

What If Results Aren’t Associated Back to You?

People need to see that results were achieved because of you. If not, bad things can happen. Not only will you most certainly be passed over for a promotion and fail to receive a healthy pay raise, but you may find yourself out of work:

Several years ago, I moved into a new role leading an existing team. Soon after, my business unit was asked to downsize our staff. As my colleagues and I were debating who we would put on the dreaded downsizing list, two of the leaders recommended we layoff an employee on my team. She had been with the company for many years, but they said they didn’t know what she did, and assumed she didn’t do much.

Now, I had only been her manager for a short time, but I already knew she was 1) working to earn her graduate degree, 2) asking to take on more responsibility, 3) receiving glowing feedback from her clients, and 4) had modestly shared numbers with me that showed her impact to the business.

Yes, she was quiet—quietly working her tail off to deliver results. But she wasn’t a poor performer. She was overlooked. I felt she was not only a high performer, but a high potential. I kept her off the list, and she never knew how close she came to losing her job.

Yes, producing strong results is table stakes for a successful career. But different kinds of stakes come into play if you’re a poor performer, or an overlooked performer like my former employee. You can get fired.  

Among the 5 different principles, Performance is the one area where a lack of ability will most likely result in getting fired. If you lack ability in the other 4 principles, you may stall out and not be able to advance your career to the next level, but it’s unlikely you’ll lose your job as a top performer.

Signs you’re seen as a top performer.

Not sure if you’re seen as a top performer or not? Here’s some sure signs that you rock and are highly valued by your company:

1) Go-to Person

You are your boss’ trusted, go-to person for taking on special or important projects. You’re sought after for feedback or expertise.

2) Reviews

High ratings on annual performance review. You’re rated as exceeding expectations in several performance categories.

3) Earnings

Higher than average merit increases, or out of cycle increases, or special one-time bonuses.

4) Recognition

Verbal call outs or written praise from your manager, and your manager’s manager, for your work. Given comp time, gift cards or other rewards for putting in extra hours on a tough assignment.

If you’re seeing these signs, congrats and keep up your great work!

But if you aren’t receiving high ratings in your reviews, earning higher than average raises, or receiving other forms of recognition for your contributions, I’m sorry to say you are not a high performer (or at least seen as a high performer). Perhaps some of these common career blockers are the reason why.

Common blockers to being recognized as a high performer.

There could be a host of reasons why you’re not seen as a top performer (or worse). Here’s four common causes:

1) You Don’t Fit the Company Culture

Do you thrive on independent work, yet your company values teamwork above all else? Or maybe your employer is process focused, while you’re more enterprising and out-of-the box? If you don’t fit the corporate culture and values, it’s going to very difficult to bring your best self to work and be recognized as a high performer. Plus, you’ll probably be miserable.

2) You Have a Bad Manager

Early in your career, the primary person who needs to see you as a high performer is your boss. But the higher you go, the more you need leaders beyond just your immediate boss to see you as the source/reason for the results. This can be difficult if your manager isn’t the type to sing your praises to others, or worse, takes credit for your results. If this is happening to you, it’s time to go work for someone else—now.

3) You Deliver Mediocre Results

Maybe you need a reality check. Are you really a high performer, or is it possible your performance is just mediocre? If you can’t quickly quantify your results and articulate your impact to the business, then it’s time to take a hard look at yourself.

Compare yourself to your peers (that’s what your boss does). Are you putting in more effort? Are you taking more initiative? If not, this is the problem.

I see people get confused on what counts as just “doing your job” vs exceeding expectations and delivering extraordinary results. If you don’t know the difference, ask your manager. Get clear on what the bar is, and then go crush it. 

4) You’re Difficult to Work With

Even if someone is exceeding expectations and delivering results, nothing is a bigger red flag for a manager than having a negative or toxic employee on your team.

No matter how smart or skilled you are, if you have a bad attitude, thrive on drama, or are difficult to work with—you won’t last long. Leaders know it only takes one bad apple to ruin the bunch and will do what it takes to get you out.  

Sadly, I’ve seen this happen too often at work—high performers who experienced one too many career setbacks, feel mistreated by management, blame others for their situation, and grow an increasingly negative attitude. In my opinion, the best thing someone can do in this situation is make a fresh start at a new company. Leave the baggage behind and start anew.

Have you experienced any of these common blockers like mismatch in corporate culture? What other signs of success of blockers have you experienced at work? Please share in the comments below!

Up Next…

This post introduced the basic blocking and tackling on what the Performance Principle is all about. 

In a future post we will dive into ideas on how get recognized as a high performer. 

Next, we’ll cover Promotion Principle #2: Potential.



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