Are promotions about what you do or who you know? It's been a long-debated topic in the realm of leadership. While some argue that the fast track to the top is paved with complex skill sets, others think promotions really boil down to internal relationships. Both arguments have merit, but which side comes out on top?
Contestant #1: Skills
Skills seem like the logical winner in this roundup. The more skilled a professional is, the more qualified they are to fulfil a higher role within the organisation.
A study by the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics found that individuals that landed a promotion were nearly twice as likely to have participated in training than those who were passed up for the job. The takeaway here is that professionals who proactively seek out new skill sets are more likely to climb the corporate ladder.
However, in an increasingly competitive professional landscape, being skilled is not enough – you need to be the most skilled. Think of it in terms of running. Sure, it's impressive that you can run a 5-minute mile but it means nothing if the guy next to you is running it in 4-minutes.
In such a fast-paced landscape, it is important to always be looking for ways to improve your skills through new training. Professionals with this kind of drive and the talent to match are prime candidates for promotion opportunities.
Contestant #2: Relationships
Relationships can play a big role in promotions. While skills are important, a professional's ability to form strong internal relationships often says a lot about their capabilities as a leader.
A professional's ability to form strong internal relationships often says a lot about their capabilities as a leader.
According to Eric Heggestad, an industrial and organisational psychologist and a professor at the University of North Carolina, skills are a bigger focus when professionals apply for entry-level positions. However, when it comes to the higher positions, relationships carry more weight.
"[For promotions] you look a lot deeper, at things like charisma and the ability to motivate people," Heggestad explained.
"It matters more at the higher level, as the span of control increases."
Forming relationships with the right people can also indicate to higher-ups that you are interested in a promotion early on. Kevin Delaney, senior HR director at LinkedIn, explains that the law of association plays a powerful role in the workplace.
If you want to be promoted to project manager, start hanging out with other project managers. Vocalise your interest in the role, learn while you wait for a promotion to open up. These relationships can be critical to helping you gain that extra edge in the promotion race.
"If you want to get promoted, then associate with those in your field who have been promoted," noted Delaney. "They've done something right. Habits rub off."
And the winner is . . .
The truth is, skills and relationships are closely connected. It is a skill to form solid and long-lasting relationships and those internal ties can considerably expand your skill set.
With that said, this particular showdown is a draw. Professionals looking to get promoted need a healthy dose of both impressive skills and durable relationships to climb to the top.
Luckily, LMIT offers training that can help you improve in both areas. Climbing the management ladder is something that takes time and practise, our various diplomas in both leadership and management arm you with the expertise you need to take that next step in your career. Ready to get started? Sign up today.
Published by: LMIT