(Forbes first published my article here.)
Let’s get real: You may be doing stellar work—and still feel stalled in your current job. Just because you and your boss have a great relationship doesn’t mean that boss will be eager to promote you or help you get a transfer to your dream job.
The reason is understandable: Bosses don’t want to lose their best performers for good reasons: High performers make their boss look good. Plus, replacing a top performer costs time and effort in recruiting, onboarding, and training someone else to perform at the incumbent’s level. And that doesn’t even include the productivity loss during a disruption on a key project or initiative until the new person gets up to speed.
So if you’re ready to move up or on, then here’s how to make it painless for your boss to promote you:
This guide can be a print or online document—preferably online so it’s easy to update. The guide will serve as the “bible” for anyone who might need to assume your role during an absence. This document should be complete with current supplier information, contact names, and any special instructions for dealing with each vendor.
In addition, the Go-To Guide should list each recurring task or project you handle, along with the how-to’s for completing current or recurring projects.
This won’t be a massive undertaking if you build it gradually. Simply recap your steps on various projects or tasks “as you go” during a week, month, or quarter.
Suggest a reciprocal arrangement with 1-3 coworkers, whereby the coworkers teach you how to handle some of their key responsibilities so that you can “cover” for each other during a short-term absence (for illness, vacation, and so forth). Essentially, you’ll learn what they do and how they do it. In turn, they’ll learn what you do and how you do it.
Such an arrangement would benefit everyone involved: The “covering” person would be expanding their knowledge of the business and making themselves more valuable to the organization.
The “absent” person would not have an overwhelming backlog of work when they return to the job. And the company would benefit because work continues to get done even during someone’s unexpected absence.
As you learn other processes that relate to your own responsibilities, you’ll have opportunity to observe and assess the aptitudes, skills, and interests of your coworkers. Identify who among your colleagues would be best suited to handle each of your responsibilities for the short term during a transition period.
Write your transition and training plan out clearly and concisely—for a boss’s quick scanning. As they say in sports, you can’t tell the players without a program. So create a list of your key tasks or responsibilities. Then add a coworker’s name beside each item. Finally, add a “Turnover Completion Date” beside each item.
Get on your boss’s calendar to make your pitch for the promotion—or for the transfer to your dream job.
During that meeting as you explain why you deserve a promotion (or want a transfer), realize that your boss’s first reaction will be “Oh, no, not now! We’re right in the middle of ….”
Understand that if you’re a top performer, your boss will probably panic at your mention of leaving. So before you even give him or her time to turn you down, pull out your transition plan and point out how much thought and effort you’ve given to “making this transition smooth and painless.”
Point out your recommendations for turning over your responsibilities during the transition until a full-time replacement joins the team. Be concise but complete. That is, identify which coworkers you’ve already trained and/or when their training will be completed.
Assure the boss that you plan to leave things in tip-top shape so that the team or department continues to run like a well-oiled machine.
Then ask for the order—the boss’s commitment to promote you by X date or the boss’s help in transferring to your dream job.
Following these steps, of course, won’t always guarantee a promotion or your boss’s help with a transfer. But the process, documentation, and accompanying promises for a trouble-free turnover definitely make it difficult for a boss to continue to say no.
Learn more ways to communicate your readiness to move up with Communicate With Confidence!: How to Say It Right the First Time and Every Time.