The Unwritten Rules



NEW YORK CITY (August 3, 2010) – The economic downturn has slowed career progress for managers at most companies, and many aspiring executives feel their careers have stalled – even though they’re delivering consistent results and getting positive performance reviews.

Yet, there is a pathway to being “first off the bench” for new, career-developing assignments and positions, according to John Beeson, succession planning and organizational development consultant and author of the forthcoming The Unwritten Rules: The Six Skills You Need to Get Promoted to the Executive Level (Jossey-Bass, fall 2010).

“Getting unstuck isn’t easy, but focusing on a set of imperatives for advancements can help you move yourself to the next level. Those imperatives are: eliciting feedback that really counts; increasing your visibility inside the company; broadening your perspective on the organization; generating positive change in your area; and initiating constructive career discussions with the right people,” says Mr. Beeson, principal of Beeson Consulting.

Mr. Beeson is available to discuss the career doldrums dilemma – and elaborate on the five imperatives for being “first off the bench”:

Get feedback that counts – and it’s usually not what’s said in performance reviews. Candid, unvarnished feedback about where one stands vis-a-vis an organization’s “unwritten rules of advancement” isn’t as easy to come by as one might think. Managers have a number of inhibitions about providing it: There’s the human aversion to giving people bad news, plus the concern about de-motivating an otherwise strong performer. “The problem is that if there are things that are holding you back, you need to know about them. Do people see you as more tactical than strategic? Do chronic relationship issues with peers present a stumbling block? Are you seen as resistant to change? To ‘tease out’ this kind of feedback, initiate mature conversations with your boss and other more senior people you’ve worked with. Be non-defensive, listen carefully and attempt to ‘listen between the lines’ to ferret out underlying concerns. At the end of a session, you can even ask, ‘What one or two things – above all others – would be most helpful to me in getting ahead with my career?” Mr. Beeson says.

Be more visible in the company – and broaden your perspective on the business while you’re at it. “To borrow an ancient phrase, ‘Don’t hide your light under a bushel.’ If you want to move into a new job, increase your exposure to other managers in the company. Most organizations create task forces and cross-functional project teams to deal with key issues: Look for opportunities to join those teams. This will also help you broaden your perspective on the business and the organization,” Mr. Beeson says.

Show you can drive “change.” “One of the problems of staying in a job for a long time is the tendency to get stale and rely on old approaches. When executives look for someone new to bring onto their teams, they want people who can re-invent how things are done and make quantum leaps in performance. They don’t want maintainers and administrators. So you should evaluate practices in your area and introduce innovative approaches. Success at doing that can generate positive buzz in the organization and make you attractive for jobs in other areas,” he says.

Start career conversations with the right people. “Over a period of time, schedule meetings with your boss and others in senior positions. Beyond asking them about your reputation as a leader, get their input on the kind of job experiences that could round out your skills and help advance your career. Convey, in a professional way, your career goals and let people know the kind of experiences you’re interested in. Often they’ll recall the conversation later – and put your name in for consideration when a relevant assignment comes up,” he said.

“These strategies take time and patience. But if you work hard on demonstrating the core elements of leadership, and do it based on candid feedback you elicit, the doors to career advancement will begin to open,” said Mr. Beeson.

To schedule a conversation with John Beeson or for more information, please contact Frank Lentini of Sommerfield Communications at 212-255-8386 or

About Beeson Consulting, Inc.

Founded in 1998, Beeson Consulting provides management consulting services to some of the largest, most respected companies in the world. Services include succession planning, top-talent development, executive assessment, organization design and executive coaching. For each client, the firm brings to bear best-practice expertise; practical, action-oriented solutions; and a consultative, customized approach. All Beeson consultants have a combination of corporate and consulting experience.

Learn more about Beeson Consulting, Inc.

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