Question: Building a case for promotion to senior management

As a training manager, I was responsible for training and development of 22 member team. With time and business growth, I am now directly responsible for a 70+ member team and indirectly for 200+ personnel.

I need help in developing a case for my promotion and a staff member to support me. Just indicating the growth in the team strength whom I support is unlikely to win a positive reply.

How can I best argue my case?

12 Expert Insights

Obviously your responsibilities have grown.  Think about positioning the promotion in terms of how, by working at a different level in the organization (i.e., being a Director rather than manager), can enhance the function's credibility and the impact you can make on the organization. Also, what is it that someone at a more senior level does that is different from a manager.  How have you demonstrated those behaviors?  Prepare your case to show how you may already be functioning at the higher level.  To make the case for the staff member, look at the volume of work.  How does the work justify the need for the staff member?  Also, are there things that the addition of a staff member would do that would allow you to spend more time strategically moving the function forward and working on initiatives that support business objectives and further growth.  Talk with the CEO or other senior executives. Are there things they need or want from the training function that you can't currently deliver because of the staffing constraints?

First, I would recommend that you not look for a best way to “argue” your case but to look for the best way to sell your case.
The following thoughts are based on the article titled "Effectively Influencing Decision Makers" by my colleague Marshall Goldsmith.

Your job is to influence the decision makers who will approve the promotion & staff addition, and you should treat decisions makers in the same way that you would want to be treated if the roles were reversed. When presenting ideas to decision makers, realize that it is your responsibility to sell – not their responsibility to buy. In many ways, influencing ultimate decision makers is similar to selling products or services to external customers.  They don’t have to buy – you have to sell!

I would not appeal to their sense of fairness. As has been previously stated, focus on contribution to the larger good and the needs of the decision maker  – not just the achievement of your objectives. What’s in it for them if they give you a more impressive title & more money?

For example, would changing your title send a signal to the larger organization about the importance of training & development? Would it help you develop a more effective relationship with senior executives, thus helping insure that your programs are linked to the business goals & objectives?  Would it help you recruit higher quality staff?

Finally, I would suggest that if you are unsuccessful in selling the promotion, that you keep a positive attitude. They have the power to make the decision. There is nothing to guarantee that they will make the smartest decision, the most rational decision, or the fairest decision. Once we make peace with the fact that the people who have the power to make the decisions always make the decisions,  we become more effective in influencing others and making a positive difference.  We also become happier!

As I think about how to develop people and what I look for, I consider the following:

1. What are the responsibilities - I am responsible for projects, people, outcomes (the greater responsibility measured by the combination)
2. What is the time horizon and complexity of their thinking and work (ex. implementing an enterprise project with a 5 year impact is different than a small department wide project)
3. Level of skill and experience required to do my job - we promote people who have invested in and developed a high degree of professional skill, breath of experience leading to judgment and maturity (business acumen as an example) and years of experience (maturity)
4. Attitude -
5. Ability to work with others (emotional intelligence)
6. Ability to put all of the above mentioned items into place to deliver high quality work, through people to create value for the organization and it's stakeholders.

I would use the same to justify their promotion.

I hope this is helpful in your efforts. Please let me know if I can elaborate on this answer in any way.

All of the advice you've already received from members on Mentors Guild has been excellent.  I'm going to add an additional idea.

First, is there a major change in the kind of responsibilities between your current position and the next?  That could involve different knowledge; or it could involve larger management or leadership roles.  Do you have these additional skills?

The problem begins with the fact that your significant increase in responsibilities and value to the organization seem to be unrecognized or even acknowledged.

Second, you are busy creating a better case for recognition you haven't received.  One possibility, is your need to speak out and, most importantly, you need to speak up the ladder.

As there's been no recognition, you must gain more power by aligning yourself with people with more power and influence.  We talk about mentors; think of them as allies.

You must create relationships with one or more of the people in your organization who have more visibility, leadership roles, influence and power in decision making than you do.

Why?  Because those people already command attention and if you have access to them, people will see you as powerful too.

When you make a case for yourself you may succeed but, since this is a painful or angering situation for you, you may well come off negatively.  And think of how much more weight a recommendation from a powerful person carries.

That (or those) visible decision-maker can teach you a lot.  Equally important, having a relationship with one or more of these leaders makes you a more visible and powerful person than you are now.  Other people are more likely to take notice of you and that would include the justification for a promotion.

Suggest you begin to think of this less as "training and development" and more as ROI directly related to alignment and engagement of your team and internal clients.  If you can begin to quantify your results, you will enable a conversation with your boss and leadership team that allows acknowledgement of something very important to them.  And that will lead to a better understanding and appreciation of what you have accomplished and contributed to the organization.  It is all about "impact."

Above, great advice all! Building on Edith's advice: If you are lucky enough to have a senior team that is truly strategic and vision-driven (instead of managing just quarter to quarter), position your promotion as part of a stepped approach to building towards that greater vision. If however, you are stuck with quarter-to-quarter type leadership, you will most likely have best results positioning your promotion as part of addressing the business's burning platform (or Threat in the company's SWOT analysis). Unfortunately, most senior execs respond better to mitigating risks and saving costs and saving face that to opportunities. Your promotion may not get approved as a reward for your and your team's great work, but it will likely get approved as strategic move to mitigate risks to the business or to refocus your team's efforts to complete a competitive advantage.

Above you have lots of great advice for your major concern, which is creating a case for promotion.  What about your secondary concern, which is having more support?  If you have 270+ people in your downstream, you might want to look at how you are currently allocating the work that hits your desk.  

Who in your downstream is seeking some development of their own?  What's on your plate, slowing you down, that would be a huge development or growth opportunity for someone else?  Make that list, and start giving away the more routine or lower value activities on your personal list.  You'll be growing future leaders and project managers, and in the grand scheme of things that's going to signal your value to the organization more than anything else.  The company can hire managers a dime a dozen. But Leaders?  They are more rare.  And one of the highest value activities in the War for Talent is the proven ability to grow and develop new leaders to support growth.  

Thus, even in the absence of a promotion, there's nothing stopping you from delegating, delegating, delegating to clear your calendar of most everything that is not of high value, strategic, and impactful.   That will start to change your brand in a way that promotion will be a natural consequence.

It sounds like you have some realistic understanding of your company. I encourage you to think strategically and frame your case in the context of your company's bigger picture.

Building on the excellent advice from the other mentors, consider how you are going to present your case for promotion and support.  You need to think and communicate in ways that "speak the language" of your audience.  It's likely that senior leadership thinks in terms of ROI...what are they getting for their investment?  Some people respond more to risk or cost...what will it cost the organization if you don't have the ability to lead and fulfill YOUR role?

Your proposal should address both risk and rewards.

This is essentially a sales job.  You have to understand your clients' pain or concerns and how you will help address that.  It may be a staged process where you are looking to get agreement on a number of facts before making a case for your promotion and support.  If you can get your hands on the leadership team's strategy and SWOT analysis, you'll have information for your case.    Using a few visuals like graphs (increased number of employees over time, sales or client stats,  turnover stats, industry trends, gap analysis ) will help tell the story.   Talent retention and succession planning have cost/benefits that you can track or get stats for.  

Present facts and information that senior leaders agree on:
Context:  Growth in company, trends, successes, etc
Current situation: turnover rates, new skills needed, workforce trends
Tension points: "misses" with clients, aging workforce (especially on leadership team), new regulations, client needs, etc
Ask questions:  How does leadership intend to address tensions and gaps?   What are their visions for the company?  What support do they need to fulfill the vision?

THEN make a case for your promotion and support as a way to address THEIR issues and tensions.

Obviously, this is a simplified overview of what you might do since I don't know your actual situation.  I hope it is helpful.

To paraphrase Zig Ziglar
"The only thing worse than developing your people and having them leave is NOT developing them and having them stay. "

What are some of the things that won't be done or done well if your people lack training and development?

When these things don't happen...
* What is the impact on your ability to get and keep customers?
* How will your organization's ability to lead and manage be effected?
* What is the effect on the organization's ability to grow and innovate?
* What are the financial implications of these outcomes?

Use these questions to quantify the implications of inaction and the ROI for your initiatives.

The practice of developing others to a point where they can participate in the leadership of the entity is such a gift that your management has to realize its multiplicative effect in growing the enterprise.  See anything that I have written on what I call "leaderful" practice, such as

All the good advice has been given! I will add another angle to consider, though not necessarily my favorite option for you. Check around for possibilities at other companies. Your record of success would surely make you attractive to other employers. If you get an offer, you can use it as leverage for your promotion, though you have to be ready if they "call your bluff."  Even if you don't get an offer, I think you'll find that there are good alternatives in the free market. It might give you the added internal confidence you need to make your case and request the advancement. It may even be that they've been wondering when you would get around to asking for the promotion!

Good luck!