How to Get Promoted (or Fired) Faster

By Marshall Goldsmith

Recently, I asked my friend Mark Thompson, world’s #1 CEO coach and best-selling author of Now Build a Great Business, Success Built to Last, to share his thoughts on getting promoted (and alternatively getting fired). This is a challenging topic for many people in organizations today, and Mark, a four-time CEO himself, shares his ideas in our interview excerpt below.

Marshall: Mark, as the number one leadership coach in terms of CEOs and future CEOs, what do you think is the fastest way to get promoted and then conversely, what’s the fastest way to get fired?

Mark: I think it’s so surprising when people think about the process of being promoted and avoiding getting fired. What is surprising is to share with people the fact that getting promoted isn’t really only about you, it’s about your boss. It’s about the organization. They may have a big, hairy, audacious goal, or problem that they’re trying to solve. And, the best way to start to be considered for that promotion and to avoid being fired is to get focused on them first.

It’s not you that needs to be thinking about your image every moment. It’s about you making a hero of your boss, of the team, of the organization, finding a way to solve that problem, seeing how you can contribute, and bring people to the battle of trying to solve that big problem. If you can get off the fact that this isn’t about that beauty contest, you might be on a short list to get into the corner office, but the surest way is not to be selfish. It’s not about your personality. It’s about really making that problem apparent and solved for the organization.

Marshall: The greatest management thinker in history is Peter Drucker. You and I both had the privilege to be on the Peter Drucker advisory board for years. I think he’d agree with everything you just said.

Peter taught me that our mission life is to make a positive difference, and whoever has the power to make the decision makes decision. If you’re my manager and you have the power to make the decision, you don’t have to buy, I have to sell.

Mark: I heard this come up again just recently with Ramon Laguarta, CEO of PepsiCo, who took over from Indra Nooyi, a legend in her time globally as a CEO. Indra basically told him, the first things you need to ask is what does your customer value? What does your board value? What are the stakeholders valuing? And you know, somehow miraculously if you value them, you’re okay too. Now you’re in a good position to be promoted.

Marshall: Great point! What are some questions or comments you might like to hear from our viewers?

Mark: I’d love to hear everyone answer in the comments what they think their boss values, and what kind of problems are they trying to solve. These comments will be great for everyone to hear, because these are day-to-day situations and challenges that everyone can relate to and identify with. So, thank you Marshall!

We’d love to read your comments, stories, and ideas about what you think your boss values and what kinds of problems he or she is trying to solve. Please leave them here on LinkedIn.