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Accepting a Promotion? What to Say & Do Now

Accepting a Promotion Red Cape Revolution

Congrats! You’re accepting a promotion inside your company, and I’m so excited for you. You’ve earned it, and it couldn’t have happened to a better person.

Now, as you dive in, a word of warning.

Don’t make the same mistakes others have made.

The path from here to your promoted happiness isn’t always clear, simple, or easy. If you’re not careful, you’ll get stuck in a no-person’s land in-between your current role and your new role, and you’ll struggle to succeed.

No one wants that for you.

If you’re accepting a promotion, it’s a perfect time to put these four strategies to work. Let’s make your new role work for your company, your career, and your life.


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Strategy #1: Don’t begin until you end.

My client Liza felt trapped.

trapped accepting a promotion

She was incredibly excited to be accepting a promotion to director of IT. After serving as a specialist on a team of ten for a few years, she saw that her skills could be better used leading people rather than being one of many subject matter experts.

After months of conversation with her leadership, all the details had been laid out:

  • new salary,
  • new office,
  • even budget to hire a new assistant plus another specialist to replace her on the team.

And yet . . .she forgot to negotiate one important detail: an official start date of her new position.

Lisa assumed she’d have time to transition her current projects and learn the ropes of her new role as a leader. She thought she’d have time to acclimate, to learn from others, and to think more broadly about the team’s challenges and how she could help.

Unfortunately, everyone else assumed she was starting in the new role as soon as it was announced.

go when youre accepting the promotion

Within minutes of the internal communication hitting people’s inboxes, Lisa’s emails and Slacks were pinging nonstop. Some messages were simply “congratulations.” But others were new meeting invitations where people thought they should include her, now piled up on top of the invites she’d already accepted in her existing role.

What’s more, her teammates began asking for private time to air their grievances and petition for new projects. Future peers from other departments wanted to welcome her to the role and, as she described it, “tell her how to do the job.”

Instead of feeling excited and energized, Lisa felt overwhelmed and behind, even before she began.

Do This Instead

Lisa’s problem is a common one when we’re accepting a promotion within our same organization. Unless we draw clear lines between what’s ending and what’s beginning, we end up living in a blurry space where we’re doing two jobs.

Here’s what to do instead:

  • Set a clear ending date for the old job. You’d do this if you were leaving the company, wouldn’t you? Be sure that the date is communicated to internal teams, clients, customers or vendors. Everyone benefits from clarity.
    • When people invite you to meetings for your new job before your old job ends, try saying something like this:
      • “I appreciate that you’re already including me. Right now, I owe my current job a thorough transition, and my ending date there is Y. After that, I’ll start diving into the meetings like yours, so I won’t be able to participate right now. Appreciate your patience as I wind my current work up right!”
  • Set a clear starting date for the new job. Consider even taking time off in-between if you’re overdue. Especially if you’re in a remote working situation, it’s hard to magically turn the switch without a break.

Yes, it’ll be work to hold to these boundaries. But the minute you compromise, you compromise your long-term success. If that’s a challenge, use the next strategy.

Strategy #2: Trust you have time to transition right.

Feeling pressured to jump into every single aspect of your new role right away after accepting a promotion? That’s normal.

In fact, your organization probably needed you in this role eons ago. Your leaders are hungry for you to dive in, solve the problems and do the work you’re meant to do.

And yet . . . just because someone needs it now, doesn’t mean it can happen now.

Take the time to get the new role off to a healthy start, both for the organization and for you.

Do This Instead

Decide to play the long game. Resist the urge to fix everything now.

accepting a promotion now

The work you’re observing didn’t get broken in a day, so it can’t get fixed in a day. In fact, it’s not unusual for people to spend a full year or more in a new role before all the aspects of it seem clear and organized.

Be patient. Trust yourself, and ask for that trust from others. You’re in this role for a reason.

Of course, you’ll get pressure from others. When you do, try these scripts:

  • “I totally understand the need for the XYZ work to get underway quickly. But I know you want it to be successful, too. Right now, there’s no capacity to dive into it, but it’s on my longer-term list and I expect to look at it again by DATE.”
  • “As you know, I just started this role, so I’ll ask for your patience as I get my hands around all the issues that are emerging. Let’s put time on the calendar to talk more about your issue in [pick a month or two from now].”
  • “I’m so glad you brought that issue to my attention. Here’s what I’ll ask of you. Would you write me a one-page summary of the key problem and the proposed solutions as you see it, and after I get that, we can talk further?”

If you want to succeed in this new role, how you start is indicative of how you’ll end up. Don’t start overpromising, or you’ll end up overwhelmed. Trust yourself that there’s time to figure it all out.

Strategy #3: People take priority.

No matter what your role, relationships become the glue that holds our work together.

together when accepting a promotion

The better the relationships, the easier the work, always.

As you make your transition, don’t leave the people of your past behind while you’re getting to know any people of your future.  Some level of office politics or culture challenges always exist, but the only route to change is through real human beings, not systems or processes.

Our tendency is to forget about the folks of our past life and focus instead on who’s in our new one, especially our new leaders or stakeholders (more about managing upward here.)

Do This Instead

To make sure you don’t fall into the forgetful trap, pick the five people whose relationships are most important to you to maintain. Right now, schedule a recurring check-in on their calendar two months from now, and every two months going forward.

Scheduling the time now keeps your relationship warm, while allowing you to relax and know you’ll get to check in with them at a set time.

In addition, if your new role requires people thinking about you differently, it might be time for a relationship reset to step back and change course of how you’re working with someone. (The steps and scripts to get started with your reset are here.)

Strategy #4: Ask for help.

No great leader knows all the details about everything they lead.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra probably doesn’t know precisely what happened in each plant all over the world each day. She doesn’t know everyone’s name as she did when she was building her career. She can’t spend time learning every part for every vehicle made with her company’s label.

But Barra, like you, has leaders she trusts to give her information when she needs it. She can ask for help, ideas, background, history, and insights.

So can you.

When you’re accepting a promotion, it’s tempting to immerse yourself in all of the back reports, powerpoint decks, and project plans you can. Truth is, though, this is just an easy place to hide.

Ask others for help. Be honest with what you don’t yet know, and let others teach you. Let the experts do the legwork in their fields of expertise. Being the boss doesn’t mean being the one with all the answers; it’s an invitation to ask better questions.

Congrats again. You’ve got this.


Need more help?

No matter where you’re stuck, I’d like to help. Schedule your initial 30-minute coaching chat with me today–it’s fast, fun and free.

Just hit the button below, and pick a date and time that’s available. Answer a few short questions, and then I’ll call you at the time you picked. There’s nothing to prepare–just show up right where you are. If, after we talk, it sounds like one of my coaching programs or courses will help you going forward, I’ll share details after our call. There’s no pressure –my goal is to be helpful immediately.

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