Promotion should be a piece of (cake)PIE

piece of pie

Whether you’re making the appointment, seeking the appointment or in the early stages of succession planning for the appointment, there are 3 basic ingredients that you need in your recipe for success: Performance; Image and Exposure (PIE).

The term PIE came to prominence two decades ago in a book by Harvey Coleman called “Empowering Yourself: The Organizational Game Revealed”;  which in summary says there is a lot more to getting promoted than working hard and being in the right place at the right time – it’s more about image and exposure and less about performance.

Traditionally believed to be 60% performance 30% image and 10% exposure, many Coaches and HR specialists today would flip those percentages round with 60% on exposure. For if the people who matter, (the decision makers and influencers) don’t know who you are and what you are capable of, the odds are against you before you have even put finger to keyboard.

Performance is a given – You differentiate yourself from your peers not only through a superior performance, a given for all promotional candidates but with a better image and a wider exposure. I’m not referring to social media pages, which at times have been known to be more damaging to an application than supportive; and should be managed responsibly and maturely.

If performance is a given, then the differentiators are behaviours and attitudes that in turn form and shape your public image and exposure.

Image is critical – it’s what people immediately think of when they hear your name. It’s your reputation, style, interaction and your manner of doing things, in today’s parlance your personal brand.

I’ve been at meeting tables when manager A shares their plans for person B to be appointed to position C and the responses in the room have been illustrative of how quickly we label people we don’t particularly know very well and allow those labels to form and shape our perceptions. Consider the connotations of these throw away labels:  “a safe pair of hands”, “lacks gravitas”, “it’s too soon”, “doesn’t see the big picture”, “I wouldn’t like to sit next to them on a long flight”. Labels can and do influence decisions – its human nature.

Exposure is critical – it’s which people are able to immediately think of you (positively) when they hear your name, in today’s parlance your personal network. Exposure acts as the catalyst for your Image and Performance and can make all the difference – there’s still a lot of truth in the English proverb “it’s not what you know but who you know.”

Coleman tells a story about sheltering from a snow storm during which he recognises a senior executive from his company is in the same shelter – he strikes up a conversation that lasts the best part of the storm and the two part to continue their skiing. Six months later he is fast tracked for a promotion. Get that conversation wrong and the wrong image can get you the wrong exposure and it could well be your own job your reapplying for in the next restructure.

Following an acquisition I was part of the existing management team asked to present to the incoming management team; standard stuff really who what why etc. What surprised me was the difference in the questioning techniques used by the incoming managers. I had a relatively easy time, one or two others were less fortunate and didn’t make the end of the week. Sometime later I discovered the incoming management had spoken to my network of customers as part of their due diligence and the decision to retain me had effectively been made before I’d even stood up to present.

Succession Planning – stress the importance of image and exposure to everyone you’re positioning or sponsoring for promotion, ensure they understand that whilst you know what a great person they are other don’t. Ensure they understand how important their attitudes and behaviours are in shaping and forming their image and exposure. That they need to consistently perform in their meetings, in their communications, in managing their people and in their interaction with other teams – because we all form impressions on what we see and hear.

5 Tips on PIE making

  1. Accept that superior performance is a given and must be a consistent ingredient.
  2. Turn up the temperature to secure the labels that will advance your appeal.
  3. Do not rush your networking – the best advocate networks require time to rise.
  4. Seek out PIE makers and learn their baking techniques.
  5. Be authentic otherwise you’ll be exhausted trying to be someone you’re not.

Since 2013 I have been helping ambitious SMEs with their Strategic and Leadership challenges.

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Posted in Career Management, People performance, Promotion
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