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ICON Singapore: moving from the middle to the top

The unwritten rules for getting a promotion

February 2018

January is traditionally a month for making New Year's resolutions, so it seems fitting that ICON Singapore kicked off its 'Lunchtime Learning' sessions for 2018 with a talk on practical ways for marketers to jump start their career development in the months ahead.

The CEO of HR consulting firm 4D Performance, Dr Indigo Triplett, gave a candid presentation to ICON on the difficulties of "moving from the middle to the top" in the workplace.

A US-born but now Malaysia-based HR specialist, Dr Triplett has a long track record in helping organisations attract, develop and retain employees. She also supports organisations to transition talent within a company and provides tips, tools and techniques on how to improve performance and productivity.

Maybe it's not WHAT is keeping you from the top.
Maybe it's WHO is keeping you from the top, and that could be YOU.

Her talk centred around understanding the difference between career management and development, reminding attendees to always strive higher and aim for success. "Career management is knowing where you want to go, but development is how you do it," Dr Indigo explained.

She emphasised the importance of implementing strategies to help people push out of the middle ground and skyrocket in their careers. She said companies typically focus on developing the skills of employees at the bottom and the top of their organisations, while neglecting those working away in the middle. To address this, those in the middle must take responsibility for their own growth. If they don't, they could be their own biggest obstacle to success.

In her words, "Maybe it's not what is keeping you from the top. Maybe it's who is keeping you from the top, and that could be you."

For employees to continue to grow their careers, Dr Indigo said they require 'people competence', meaning "knowing how to play the game". She also described the "unwritten rules to climbing the corporate ladder". For instance, while employees are given an employee handbook that tells them how to do a job, there is usually nothing in it that tells them how to get promoted. These are the unwritten rules, according to Dr Indigo.

The bad news is that these rules aren't easy to understand. In fact, many are unwritten precisely because they're sometimes controversial – such as quietly getting buy-in for an idea before presenting it at a meeting, volunteering for tough projects to demonstrate your skills and to develop the organisation's 'bench strength', or for women dressing less 'feminine' to get ahead in a male-dominated office. Worse, these rules often only become apparent after they've been broken, and can change depending on the industry, office and leadership of the organisation. Dr Indigo said, 'You may be a super star within a department at your company, get promoted and fail miserably in a new department because the game is different with different players and different rules."

Be wherever people are getting face time with influencers and decision-makers

She advises employees to learn the rules that affect them and use these to their advantage, while acting with integrity. In practice, this means workers should be tapped into their surroundings, so they understand any biases - conscious or unconscious – and how to improve their position regardless.

For example, some managers don't believe that people are working if they can't see them doing it. For this reason, Dr Indigo suggests that people who work from home should make their presence noticeable by regularly sending meaningful emails to their boss and colleagues. She also suggests that employees participate in workplace functions and events. "Even if you're not a drinker, you should still join your team mates in the pub and drink something like tonic water with a lime to appear as if you're joining in," she said. The point is to be wherever people are getting face time with influencers and decision-makers.

Dr Indigo's talk reminded the audience of the complexities of navigating challenging situations, but also helped understand these scenarios and find the best way to improve their career, while still handling these situations with dignity.

To learn more about Dr Indigo and 4D Performance, see: www.4-DPerformance.com. You can also email her at indigo@4-DPerformance.com. Dr Indigo is presenting a Women's Forum on 15 March at Hotel Fort Canning. This full-day event aims to help women remove barriers in the workplace. In the afternoon, Dr Indigo's Circle of Professionals will discuss topics ranging from power and influence to assertiveness for conflict resolution. In the evening, Dr Indigo will accompany the Women's Forum attendees, as her special guests to the New Zealand Chamber of Commerce 'International Women Celebration' for a night of networking, inspiring messages and fun.

For more information on women in business in Singapore, read this piece from TODAY online.

This Insight piece is related to the event ICON Singapore: Moving from the middle to the top, held on 23 January 2018. For more details on this event, please click here.