You've got several years of experience under your belt, you've put in your fair share of time, sweat, and tears, and by your calculations, it’s your turn to move up into a leadership position.
But, a job well done in the business world isn’t like a standardized test—your past performance doesn't necessarily predict a successful future in management. And if your last official leadership role was coaching your intramural softball team, it might be time to start thinking a little more seriously about your plan to move up.
My advice? Start with the person who has the power to actually promote you: your manager. To prove to your boss that you’re management material, it’s all about your attitude and willingness to do more than just fulfill your basic job description.
To make sure you’re putting yourself in the right light, here are a few tips to impress your manager and prove you’re ready to climb that corporate ladder.
1. Be a Problem SolverLeaders don’t just wait to be told what to do—they think strategically about what needs to be done, and then they do it. So, next time you’re faced with a challenge, don’t just tell your boss about the problem and wait for a solution. Instead, tell him or her how you’re going to fix it.
For example, let’s say your website’s traffic is down. It may be tempting to fall into the same routine of reporting it to your boss and simply waiting for direction—but to prove you’re fit to be a leader, kick your creativity into gear and start thinking of new solutions. Maybe you could develop a strategy to attract new audiences by hosting a contest on your Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn sites to attract more followers and further engage current ones to help you spread your message. When you present the problem along with its possible solutions, your manager will recognize your initiative and dedication to the company’s success.
And look at internal issues, too: If you think there are ways to do your job more efficiently, test those solutions and present them. You won’t only make your life easier—you’ll prove to your boss that you’re ready to improve the entire department’s operations.
2. Take on Small Management OpportunitiesOne of the best ways to show that you're ready for a leadership role is to find small ways to manage people or projects. You’ll build your management skills, of course—but more importantly, you’ll start being viewed as a team leader.
To snag some of these opportunities, you first have to make it known that you’re ready for more responsibility. So, try asking your boss if there are any managerial tasks you can take off his or her plate, like training new hires, taking on a summer intern, leading meetings, or overseeing small project teams. Is your manager going on vacation before the summer ends? Check in before he or she leaves to see how you can step in during that time.
You can prove your leadership skills through more casual means, too: Offer to help plan the company picnic or volunteer with co-workers at a community event. As you take on more responsibility (and follow through with successful results), you’ll prove that you’re committed to your team and will do what it takes to get things done.
3. Understand the Whole Company—Not Just Your RoleTo be an effective manager, you’ll need a 360-degree view of the company. With the right information, you’ll be better equipped to make informed decisions and develop the right strategies to push your department forward. So, spend some time learning as much as you can about your business as a whole.
First, nail the basics: Act as if you’re an outsider researching the company for an interview and (if you’re not 100% familiar with them already) read up on the business’ current vision and goals. Then, move on to the most recent annual report and press releases to delve into company operations, strategies, and challenges. And don’t forget to research your competitors, too, to see exactly where you rank in your industry.
Then, consider your personal knowledge of the internal workings of your company. If there’s an area you don’t know too much about—like finance, human resources, or supply chain management—introduce yourself to people in that department and ask if you can shadow them for an afternoon to learn a little about what they do on a daily basis. You’ll impress your boss by proving that you’re interested in more than your own responsibilities—but you’ll also understand how other departments work together to contribute to the company’s overall success.
4. Be Professional
Finally, as you're thinking about how to get to the next level, remember to make sure that you’re exemplary in what you do now. Would you want a manager who misses deadlines, forgets to answer emails, and gossips about other employees? Of course not—and even though you’re not a supervisor yet, you shouldn’t be displaying those behaviors, either.
Instead, demonstrate a good work ethic by being on time and courteous to other co-workers. Avoid office gossip, aim to have the reputation of someone who everyone can trust, and approach your everyday tasks with a positive attitude.
I know—it seems simple. But sometimes, it’s all about the basics. At the end of the day, if you’re the go-to person your boss and co-workers can always count on, you’ll be on the right track to move up.
Once you perfect the intangible qualities of a leader—like responsibility, initiative, problem solving, vision, and follow-through—you’ll prove that you can add value to your company in a management position. It might take time, but that’s OK: It’ll put you in the perfect light when the opportunity for a promotion comes up.