Framing your growth and promotions conversations
When considering promotions or career advancements (e.g. taking on a bigger role), I consider a few dimensions to evaluate for readiness (growth or promotion). What’s important to note is that EVERY promotion and growth case is unique. People are unique. What that means is people leaders must apply judgement in each case. That judgement comes with experience and that experience comes with time.
Time in role
This is a gnarly one. While we often wish that time wasn’t a dimension for growth opportunities or promotion and we simply relied on merit, time in reality brings with it the opportunity to experience new and complex problems. Those opportunities allow leaders to hone their skills and develop new ones. This is important because as you take on more senior roles you will face a wider range of problems which requires a wider set of skills (e.g. ability to troubleshoot a complex problem and also explain it simply to stakeholders).
The industry average is approximately 2–4 years in a role or level prior to considering growth or promotion opportunities.
Experience with time in role
Spending 2–4 years in a level or role does not warrant an automatic promotion. Developing new skills, taking on more complex problems, and demonstrating the ability to learn and adapt are the signals that I look for when considering a promotion or move into a bigger role.
There is no compression algorithm for experience.
Experience matters. Experience comes with taking on more complex problems over time. This process gives exposure to growth areas for all levels of leaders and opportunities to learn about new tools and develop new skills.
Often experience comes w/ time in role but experience can come with exposure to a wide variety of challenges at once (like those that we face in start up, scale up, or hyper growth environments).
Results and consistency
This area is the most important of all the dimensions. Leaders should be able to deliver results under a variety of circumstances — not only the ideal ones. Leaders who are able to learn and adapt can deliver results in the harshest of conditions because they lead with first principles and a have a wide set of tools they can leverage to solve complex problems.
Delivering results consistently and with high quality takes time which also allows for leaders to hone their skills. This means that these three dimensions support each other.
Can you really boil down an individual’s readiness to these three dimensions?
Yes and no. These high level dimensions serve as proxies for many other dimensions such as proficiency (how well you can do a task). Consider the principle around results and consistency. Our jobs are to deliver results. The way we deliver those results matter for growth conversations. For example, early career engineers, generally, tend to take brute force approaches to solving complex problems. More experienced engineers will leverage their experience to solve the same problems more effectively and continue to learn and develop new techniques. That growth is proficiency increasing w/ experience and time. In this example, results and consistency act as a proxy to also measure proficiency. Once you are proficient at a task, then you are ready to take on more complex challenges.