How to Get a Promotion: Lessons from a Chief Maker

November 27, 2019
James Whittaker

Check out this episode on the Win the Day Podcast

“The only hell I’m afraid of is that when I die, the person I ended up as meets the person I could have been.”

Author Unknown

Have you ever felt like you’re stuck in a rut, either in your career, at home, or in your personal life? Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Greg Layton aka The Chief Maker who specializes in getting people out of a rut and into a life they enjoy. He mostly does this through his work in the corporate world, but as you’ll see, there is an enormous but misunderstood connection between your career and your personal life.

Greg is a 1:1 coach to some of the top CEOs in the world—those at the helm of billion-dollar companies. He also sits on the board of several associations that help make the world a better place, and specializes in turning middle level managers into C-level executives.

I don’t know a single person better to speak on this topic.

Here are nine lessons for career, family, and business from Greg Layton. And if you’ve ever wondered how to get a promotion, you’re in the right place.

1. Do something beyond what you think is possible to see how it changes your life.

Some of the most impactful moments in Greg’s life came after he did something beyond what he thought was possible. In addition to living with Shaolin Monks, Greg has run ultramarathons on two continents, including the Gobi Desert in Asia and the Atacama Desert in South America. If you’re not sure what an ultramarathon is, they’re a 160-mile (260km) running race that lasts five days.

Before registering for his first ultramarathon, Greg had never run more than six miles (10km). But setting a goal so far beyond what he thought was possible helped him put his own potential into perspective. “You find out you’re capable of a hell of a lot more than you give yourself credit for,” Greg said.

Most of us follow the same routine and as a result stay in an ever-shrinking comfort zone. To give yourself bulletproof confidence, Greg suggests doing something beyond what you think is possible.

2. Excellence is the study of pressure and time.

There are very few true short-term endeavors that have a significant impact on our life. Most big-ticket items, such as family, career, and health, are long-term pursuits meaning we’re susceptible to the ebbs and flows when life inevitably gets in the way.

To greatly simplify this complexity, Greg mentioned the quote from The Shawshank Redemption: “Geology is the study of pressure and time. That’s all it takes really—pressure and time.” If you want to be successful, irrespective of what area, focus on consistent action in a clear direction, and excellence is assured.

3. Focus on something instead of everything.

If you feel like you’re in a rut, many people get burnt out because their process for getting out of the rut is trying to do everything. Instead, Greg recommends simplifying your focus to one thing. That single focus will give you momentum, which resets the bar and will give you a corresponding lift in other areas of your life.

4. Use a pattern interrupt to flip the script.

You’ve probably heard the Albert Einstein quote: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Greg suggests disrupting familiar behavior patterns to change the outcome. To do this, change your language (i.e. the words you use) and your body language.

Often, when we have parts of our lives that make us unhappy, we can only get a drastically different result if we change our approach—and it’s US who has to change. This is a simple but proven technique to use when we're feeling powerless or frustrated, or simply waiting for a promised outcome that is long overdue.

5. C-level executives have common attributes.

You might reach a point in your career where you feel resentful of people running your company because you feel that they have it easy. However, Greg believes that the people in C-level roles have earned it through following the GREAT Method:

The GREAT Method:

  • Game plan: They understand their vision and purpose, as well as the competitive environment (and how to stand out).
  • Routine: They have strong routines to not only automate excellence but to refresh themselves regularly too.
  • Entourage: They boast a comprehensive network of supporters, advocates, and ambassadors. They actively remove or transform negative people in the organization.
  • Assets: They are equipped with the necessary skills to do their job.
  • Track record: They have a bulletproof track record of how their efforts have directly and demonstrably contributed to the company’s long-term strategy.

If you want to be a C-level executive, there’s only one way forward—work on leveling up in those attributes yourself.

6. Questions before promotions.

We all want to know how to get a promotion, but Greg suggests that focusing on climbing the ladder isn’t always the best approach. Instead, before seeking a promotion, he recommends asking yourself two questions:

a) Do you like your job?

If not, go horizontal (i.e. to a different department or company) rather than vertical. Otherwise, if you spend your whole life doing work you don’t enjoy, it’s always going to be a grind.

b) Are you good at your job? (i.e. are you technically and tactically good at what you do.)

If you’re not sure, observe how often people come to you for advice, while also looking at your performance to date.

Greg also shared his formula to how to get promoted faster:

Promotion Speed = Your Track Record ^ Your Network

If you have a strong track record but a weak network, you need to work on building relationships. If you have a strong network but not the track record, you need to work on your skills and actively seeking out more responsibility.

One thing most people ignore is that your boss is your number one customer. Always go the extra mile to make them your biggest ambassador. Serve your boss and their peers, which will build a folklore about how good you are. Then, when an opportunity arises, your name will be put forward. Importantly, when you get that first taste of larger responsibility, knock it out of the park to prove you’re worthy of the role.

If you find yourself getting overlooked for promotions, you need to ask yourself why. In most cases, there’s a good chance it’s because your reputation with management isn’t where it needs to be. “People get promoted when everyone’s raving about you,” Greg said. “If they’re not raving about you, you can’t expect a promotion.”

Don’t just blindly seek promotion. Ask the right questions first.

7. Work happiness leads to home happiness.

You might’ve been in a job before that contributed huge amounts of stress to your life, so much so that your personal relationships suffered. I’ve certainly been in in that position before. Or perhaps you’re in a job like that right now.

Greg mentioned that those who report feeling stressed or unhappy at work generally have strained relationships at home. In contrast, those who thrive at work generally thrive in their home life too.

That reason, alone, might make it worthwhile to take steps to improve your job satisfaction.

8. Change your state, change your outcome.

If you’re going to make a significant decision about your life, don’t do it out of fear or anger. Instead, make sure you’re in flow (your absolute best and most resourceful state) before you make the decision; as a result, the outcome will be significantly better. While we all feel the same urges, acting on the impulse has been the undoing of many promising careers.

Do what you can to get into flow—getting outdoors can be an essential first step in that process. Next, think about the bigger picture—what you want from your life—while seeking the counsel of trusted friends. Only then will you be in a state to make a decision that aligns with who you are and where you want to be long-term.

9. Leave the planet net positive.

A lot of stress and frustration can arise from making it about ourselves, but what we should be thinking about is leaving family, friends, colleagues, and the world better off as a result of our presence, kindness, and contributions. This is a simple focus that all of us can manage each and every day.

I hope those nine lessons were as impactful for you as they were for me. The full interview is available in the Win the Day Facebook group.

Want a special bonus? Grab a free copy of Greg’s bestselling book Chief Maker.

Onwards and upwards always,
James Whittaker

Back to Newsletters >

Ready to win the day®?

Get actionable tips from James and the world's leading experts. Delivered to your inbox every two weeks ?
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram