3 Factors to Getting Promoted and How to Improve Each

Climbing the corporate ladder can be a challenge, however, if we know what factors into it, we can improve upon ourselves and liken our chances of making it to the top.


Harvey Coleman, author of Empowering Yourself, says that there are 3 factors to climbing the organizational ladder: Performance, Image, and Exposure (PIE)

Performance – how well do you do the day to day tasks required for your job? Are you constantly correcting errors found by your peers? Are you producing quality work?

Image – how others perceive you. Are you looked at as a leader or a follower? Are you easy to work with? Do you seem competent? 

Exposure – Do people in and outside your organization know what you do and who you are? Is your name tied to the work you produce? Are you getting credit?

The factors above all work together to help decide where you should be on the corporate ladder. All of these factors can effect one another too. Though you may have more control over some of the factors, you should always be aware of how the whole PIE puzzle fits together. Performance and Image tend to be the two factors that you yourself have more influence over. For instance you are responsible whether you are doing your job correctly. Are you making the correct journal entries? Are you pulling the correct data for an audit? Making excessive mistakes with your day to day work can start to brand youreslf as incompetent, which directly effects your image. As you are branded as being incompetent your manager may hold you back from certain projects thus limiting your exposure to other people within the organization. As you can see the 3 factors play off of one another and it is important to always be aware of this relationship. It is also important to remember you need all 3 factors present to make the climb up the ladder. So how can you improve these factors?

Improving Performance – Part of this comes with time and the other part comes from making sure you know what is expected of you. When starting a new task at work make sure you understand what you need to do and why you are doing it. Making some intercompany journal entries quarterly simply because your manager told you to, makes it much easier to make a mistake. How do you know if the journal entry is for the right amount or to the right account? As they say, “knowing is half the battle”. When you begin a new task make sure you understand what is expected of you and why you are doing it.

As with any task, repetition makes the master. The longer you have been doing the task, the more routine problems you will have seen. After time you will master the task as long as you understood it from the start.

With your understanding of the task and your mastery performing the task day in and day out, you will begin to build your own brand as a reputable employee with a positive image.

  Improving Image – As we left off with performance, doing your job well can help improve your image in a positive way. Attitude, likability, and impressionability are all parts of your image factor. You can be the best staff auditor the group has (great performance), but if no one likes you because you are an angry jerk, managers are not going to want to work with you. There are very easy simple ways to be liked: smile, compliment people, make small talk about a mutual subject. Give people a reason to like you.

Impressionability can be a very big part of your image. When you go to a meeting and speak, do people think you are competent? Do they trust you? Do they take you seriously? I am a big advocate of making sure you can communicate effectively and display leadership skills. One club I highly recommend to help improve your communication and leadership skills is Toastmasters. In short, Toastmasters is a club that usually meets twice a month where you are able to practice public speaking and taking leadership roles at each meeting. Sometimes just being able to speak confidently and clearly is enough to make people think you are competent even if your performance is sub par. Think about all the times you have heard a speaker use “ah” every other word during a class or a meeting. It is hard not to think negatively.

Being considered likeable and competent are sure fire ways to have your manager expose you to more projects and face time with upper management.

Improving Exposure Simply put, exposure is your visibility to others inside and outside your organization. Are you considered associated with your project and are you receiving credit? Are you getting facetime with upper management? You want people to know your name and associate it with positive images. Think of this as advertising. To advertise correctly and in a positive manner I suggest four things:

  1. Have sets of additional skills outside what is expected of your day to day tasks. Additional skills will help you add more value which will open more opportunities. For instance being an auditor whose base territory is the United States and helping complete the audit timely is good, but not awesome. However, being an auditor whose base territory is the United States and completing the audit in time while helping a Mexican division complete their behind schedule audit timely because you know Spanish is better. More detail on my top additional skills for accountants later.
  2. Volunteer more. Take on a little more responsibility with the charity events your company does. Take the lead on an event outside of work. You will be surprised how many people notice when the event runs smooth especially when the project receives public notoriety.

  3. Choose to be the speaker. If you have a project that needs to be presented, be the one to speak. More than likely they will remember who presented the project and will associate it with you.
  4. Find opportunities to be the accounting liaison to other functions at your company. This is a huge way to get exposure. Is your accounting team getting a new ERP? If so the accounting and IT department will be working very closely together. Be the point of contact for the IT department to reach out to. Rolling out a new inventory system for the warehouse? Be the point of contact for the warehouse employees to reach out to.

As you can see there is a lot to PIE and it is not something that is always easily measured. Your interpretation of how you stack up in one of the factors may not be correct. Finding an accounting mentor inside or outside of your organization may help put where you stack up into perspective. If anything you can try and get a gauge by speaking with your manager during a performance review. Ultimately PIE should be used as a tool to help keep yourself in the mindset to be promotable not a strict scoring system to climbing the corporate ladder.

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