Nine Behaviors of Highly Promotable People

Highly promotable people keep themselves in the right place at the right time to assure a career of continuous growth and advancement.

One of the early career lessons every employee learns is that not all people possess the same degree of talent, work ethic, intellect, and persistence. Some seem to struggle to move ahead in their careers while others seem to get on the fast track and are successful whatever their assignment. Here’s how the highly promotable people do it.

Key Behaviors of Promotable People. People become promotable when they are characterized by the following types of behaviors. This list is not complete because each employer is different. The nine behaviors listed below are a good start. You need to make it your business within your first year with an employer to learn the specific set of behaviors that your employer most values.

a. Promotable people are proactive. They don’t wait to be asked to do something, they are constantly looking for ways to add value and show initiative by taking actions within their span of control, and propose actions beyond their area of authority. They act as entrepreneurs inside the enterprise.

b. Promotable people are insatiable learners. They are curious and ask lots of questions. They probe the answers to the questions and dig down until they really understand something. They research best practices. They seek to test what they have learned. They are constantly open to learning. Every day.

c. Promotable people are focused on customers. Customers are people who consume the work output being produced. There are both internal customers and external customers. If you worked in a bank as a teller, your external customers are depositors, borrowers making payments on their loans, safe-deposit box holders, and more. Your internal customers are in the audit department who rely on you to be accurate, or in the security department who rely on you to report suspected fraud. Every job has internal and external customers. MVPs understand who they are, and strive to consistently exceed customer expectations.

d. Promotable people focus on business outcomes. They are always seeking to ensure their work positively impacts the organization’s KPIs and the desired outcomes the employer is seeking to achieve. They understand how each KPI is affected by another. For example, if revenues go up and expenses (another popular KPI) remain the same, expenses go down as a percent of revenues, which in turn raises the profit (yet another popular KPI).

e. Promotable people are focused on efficiency. Because they have taken their time to master their job duties and see how their work serves customers in other departments, they are always looking for ways to improve the work processes to be more efficient (get more done with the same costs in time and resources, or reduce costs while keeping the quality and quantity produced the same, or both).

f. Promotable people are agile. They are highly flexible and try to accommodate others. They nimbly respond to challenges, not fight them. They don’t dig in when the boss suddenly changes direction. They see the benefits of new opportunities, not the difficulty of making a change. They even anticipate change because they have become close to the business and can see the signs.

g. Promotable people help others. They leave a little margin in their day so they are available to help others, even people outside their immediate department. So they think bigger than just themselves or their unit. When they see something that needs to be done, they step in and lend a hand.

h. Promotable people learn from their mistakes. Successful people must make mistakes in order to become successful people. Thomas Edison finally found the secret to inventing a light bulb after nearly 10,000 failures. His response: “I’ve not failed, I’ve simply learned 10,000 ways that a light bulb won’t work.” Each failure taught him what not to do and eventually he became one of our most admired inventors. Basketball great Michael Jordan missed more than 9,000 shots in his career, lost 300-plus games, and failed to make the final game shot 28 times. Yet he is an MVP because he learned from his failures.

i. Promotable people live out integrity and humility in everything they do. The always do what they say they would do – never an excuse. They own their results, good or bad. They are 100% trustworthy. And they never see themselves as more than they truly are: another flawed person using their God-given skills, abilities, and talents with their best efforts to produce value for their employer and customers.

Bottom Line

Every one of these behaviors rests within the absolute control of the individual. There is no talent, education, or intelligence requirement. Just the simple desire to perform to the best of one’s ability and become highly promotable.

This article was in part excerpted from the seventh edition of the textbook included with the Job Search Readiness Assessment.

We help job seekers, higher ed, and employment services connect people to better jobs faster. Our acclaimed career development tools, the Job Search Readiness Assessment for experienced professionals/skilled workers and Graduate Employment Preparedness Assessment for students/recent grads both assess and explain over 3,000 career and job search best practices. We also work with some of the world’s top employers by helping them get the most out of their talented people. Our extensive leadership development course catalog provides effective skills-building for everyone in the organization, from the new / developing leader to the seasoned C-level executive. Our coaching programs produce significant results in compressed periods of time. To find out more, please visit us at, email us at, or call us at 215-942-0982.


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