Do you know what it’s really going to take to land your next promotion? Most corporate leaders don’t. They fall into this trap of believing that promotions are rewards for hard work, but they aren’t, not at the executive level. The truth is, there’s this missing piece between where you are today and where you want to go in your career that hard work can’t fix.
In Promotions Made Easy, Stacy Mayer lays out a step-by-step process to turn this missing piece into a springboard for your next promotion and the promotion after that, all the way to the C-Suite. So, if you want to step into higher leadership position, if you want to receive the recognition you deserve if you want to get paid for your ideas instead of the hours you put in at work, and if you want to enjoy more time, freedom, energy, and joy, this book is for you. With Promotions Made Easy: A Step-by-Step Guide to the Executive Suite, your next promotion is completely within your control.
Here is my conversation with Stacy Mayer.
This is the Author Hour podcast, I’m your host Benji Block. Today on the show we’re glad to be joined by Stacy Mayer. She just authored a brand-new book. The book is titled Promotions Made Easy: A Step-by-Step Guide to the Executive Suite. Stacy, thanks for joining us here on Author Hour today.
Stacy Mayer: Thank you, Benji. I’m super excited to be here.
Benji Block: Stacy, for those that might be a little unfamiliar with your work, can you talk a little bit about yourself and just tell us your background and what led you here?
Stacy Mayer: Absolutely. I coach corporate women to get promoted into higher-level executive positions. When I first started out as an executive coach, I was working for a very large Women’s Leadership Organization in Silicon Valley. I noticed that the women, first of all, number one, were amazing. Like really, I call them now corporate bad-asses, just very powerhouse women who were getting it done but they didn’t always have the title to match their abilities.
So, when I ventured out on my own and started my own business, I decided that I was going to focus on what was it going to take to actually get them the title and the compensation to match their powerhouse abilities.
Over the past five years, that’s really been my focus and it’s been working. We are getting more and more women promoted into higher-level executive positions, bringing more diversity to the leadership table and it’s just been a really fantastic and very fulfilling journey.
Benji Block: Well, thank you for your work. I love that and I love that you are seeing success; this book is going to testament to that. Talk a little bit about why this was the right time to write and release the book?
Stacy Mayer: Yeah, there are a couple of trends that are happening right now in our world. We’re in 2021 and right at the time of recording this episode, there’s a thing happening, which is called the Great Resignation, and a lot of people are quitting their jobs. And what’s happening is many women are staying behind. They are getting bombarded with extra work and more responsibility, but yet their companies are having hiring freezes and these different things are happening in the background so they’re finding that they are more in the weeds than ever and they’re not enjoying their work. Now they’re trying to juggle working from home and going back into the office. There’s just like all of this extra stuff being thrown at them and they are sort of like, “Wait a second, hey, I’m in charge here”, and I think that is a really big reminder that even though we work for corporations, that we are the owners of our own career, and we really forget that. One of the things I tell my women is that “Your company needs you in the C-Suite more than you need them”.
Benji Block: Yeah.
Stacy Mayer: And they forget that all of the time. So, there is the Great Resignation, that’s one piece of the puzzle is that we have options, and we can work for companies that value both us and the diversity in leadership. That’s the second piece, that a lot of organizations value diversity in leadership on paper, they say that they want more women, more women of color, in the C-Suite yet, then they also say on the other side of the coin that we can’t find qualified candidates, and I am like, “Hello, they’re all right here.”
Benji Block: Yup.
Stacy Mayer: What I’m doing is, I am giving the women the tools to get themselves promoted, so that they really understand, because their organization is essentially waiting for them to step up, and once they start doing this process that I teach, then they get into those positions fairly quickly. And so, it’s this perfect storm that’s happening right now in 2021, and I just want to get more and more of these tools into people’s hands.
Promotions Are Hard. How Can You Make Them Easy?
Benji Block: Well, you say that you were a cookie-cutter corporate coach for many years, and then you realized that being the hardest worker doesn’t lead to a promotion, which is something you just kind of hit on right?
Stacy Mayer: Yeah.
Benji Block: You said, “Instead, it’s deliberately managing your career and your life.”
Stacy Mayer: Yeah.
Benji Block: Okay, tell me about when you had that sort of an epiphany and how it has drastically impacted your corporate coaching.
Stacy Mayer: Could I say something else, like [I] have this biggest smile on my face right now, when you just read my words back to me. This is going to be so impactful as an author, right?
Benji Block: Yes.
Stacy Mayer: I already feel it. You just read part of my book and I just like got goosebumps. I am so excited about this book being released and more and more people just reflecting my words back to me, I just feel so much pride. I’m so grateful for this journey.
Benji Block: I love that.
Stacy Mayer: It’s like my eyes are even watering just you hearing you say that. So, that entire process is— it came up. I was attending a networking event many, many years ago and I’d tell people I coach women to get promoted and someone said, “Okay, if I could just do one thing, what would it be?” And it just like came out of my mouth instantly and I said, “Understand that a promotion is not a reward for your hard work, you have to deliberately go out and get it.” And when we look at those people who are having success at our companies, and sometimes we roll our eyes at them because maybe they are not the smartest person in the room, maybe they are not the most qualified, but yet somehow, they keep getting promoted, yet you’re the most qualified, the smartest person in the room, and you’re not.
The key thing is that they’re deliberately managing their career and they’re actively seeking out that promotion and it can be anywhere from literally asking for it, but I don’t even recommend that a lot. I recommend show, not tell, people that you are ready by showing them that you are ready for those higher-level executive positions. So yes, my mission is to bring diversity to the leadership table, but it’s also to bring the smartest, most capable people to the leadership table because sometimes, when we’re very smart and very capable, that also means that we’re head down, focused on our work and thinking at the end of the day that our work is going to speak for itself. So, I show women how to deliberately manage their careers so that they don’t look up someday and then they’re hiring somebody else from the outside for the position that they should have been in all along.
Benji Block: Do you see some other, maybe really common misconceptions that we need to dispel right?
Stacy Mayer: Yeah.
Benji Block: Maybe it’s in your clients that you’ve encountered. What’s kind of holding people back from reaching that next level of success with commonly held beliefs that maybe need to be dispelled?
Stacy Mayer: Well, you know so, the title of my book is Promotions Made Easy. So, I think about a lot why promotions are hard. And it’s not just that promotions feel hard, because I think for a lot of people, they feel hard. They’re like, “It just feels impossible.” Especially if you’ve been trying and it’s not working it feels hard, but it’s not just that. There’s actually some very specific reasons that promotions are hard. So, speaking of dispelling those myths, once we can realize what we’re doing actively on our own part to make promotions hard, then we can make promotions a lot easier for ourselves. One of the things I always tell people is that stop getting advice from your boss, especially if your boss is not 100% on board with your career and we know that was bosses that are our sponsor, that are advocates, that are amazing bosses. I think that’s the 10 %, and the 90% of us don’t have a boss that has our best interests at heart. Then, no fault of our boss, it’s because our boss has their own career that they are thinking about, and they’re managing.
Let’s say that you have a boss that is a Vice President, and you’re a Senior Director at your organization, and you want to become a Vice President in your group. So, essentially what you would like is your boss’s job and so it is difficult for your boss to advise you always how to get their job. Especially if they’re not leaving anytime soon. So, what they will do is they will say things to you like, “Keep doing what you’re doing, you’re doing amazing work.” You know, “When the next promotion cycle comes up then we’ll evaluate”, which is usually like six months or a year away. All of that is really, really, really bad advice. So, if you can start to look at that and say, “Okay, I am not going to do that anymore. I am actually going to start listening to Stacy, which is that I’m not going to keep doing what I’m doing.”
Benji Block: Right.
Stacy Mayer: “I’m going to do something different”, then you can start making more forward progress in your career. It doesn’t mean that you ignore your boss entirely, because your boss does end up being a gatekeeper in a lot of ways to your career advancement, but they are just one tiny sliver piece of the puzzle. I find that we spend way too much time trying to impress our boss, get advice from our boss, when we could make a quick move in a different direction. Like, maybe it’s your boss’s boss’s boss. If your boss’s boss’s boss really loved you and wanted you in a higher position, guess who’s going to get it first?
Benji Block: Right.
Stacy Mayer: Right?
Benji Block: Wow, I loved that you said that “I’m working with my boss to get promoted” like that is such a commonly held belief that needs to be changed. But I think it’s so natural to think that way, like it might just get my boss to think this way about me, or “Of course they would have my best interests in mind”, so thank you for spelling that out.
Stacy Mayer: And even if your boss is your sponsor and really does love your career, really wants to help you, at the end of the day if their executive team doesn’t know who you are, your boss’s hands are also tied. So, it doesn’t, it works both ways. So, it’s really just what I call standard practice, that we do not rely just on our boss and our boss’ opinion of us to get ahead.
Pulling Yourself Out of the Weeds
Benji Block: Okay, so if a promotion is something that we need to actively go out and get, it’s not something that we wait for; there is a shift in mindset that needs to take place there. How would you coach us on that to shift our mindset to maybe actively look for ways to do that?
Stacy Mayer: The first thing I also talk about is your subject matter expertise. In one of the first chapters, I am talking about how to stop doing what you’re good at. This is the work, Benji. This is, it’s so hard because it’s what got you here. So, for 20 years of your career, you build up your career based on this area of subject matter expertise. But, at executive leadership, it’s almost like transitioning into another career path. You have to understand what it takes to become an executive leader, which is often very different than having all the answers. I think that the hardest part for people is to let go of some of that. I always say the best thing that can ever happen for your career is to get a job that you know nothing about.
If you can become a Vice President in a group where you know nothing about that subject matter expertise, you are golden. One of my women got promoted into a position just like that, and the reason she got promoted is because of building these relationships that I have been talking about. She stopped focusing on her boss and started building relationships across the organization and then they built a role for her, and she knows nothing about it. But what’s happening is her executive leadership is exploding, like the stuff that she’s really good at, the reason that her company needs her in a higher executive position is shining full force because she’s not hiding behind her expertise and her boss is also looking to her to be that leader. So, she’s stepping up to the plate and she is making it happen, right. She’s looking to the other people, empowering them saying, “You know more than me”, right? “I need you to –” And so it’s just working all across the board.
I think that’s really the biggest mindset shift, in the beginning, is really, how can I pull myself out of the weeds? Stop relying on what I’m good at for those— I call them like tiny kudos, right? So, you get called on in the middle of the night and, yes, in some ways it feels terrible because like, “Really, two o’clock in the morning, I have to fix the copy machine?” I know that’s not literally what they’re doing, but that’s what it feels like, right? And so, you’re like, “Really?”
In some ways, it feels good because the next day, your boss says how amazing you were. “Oh, thank you so much you solved that problem, nobody could do that for me” right? And so, it’s relying on that area of expertise that keeps us stuck exactly where we are. It happens for two reasons, so first of all it’s a mindset shift. You just need to be open to changing it. But there are two very big things that I want you to be aware of so that you can be open to changing it.
One is that it, obviously if you are the only person who can do the job how the heck are they going to promote you into higher-level executive positions where they know you’re not going to be able to put out that fire in the middle of the night. I’ve actually had clients be told that by their boss, “We don’t have anybody else who can do your job”, which is like a slap in the face. We can’t promote you because you’re too good at your job.
Benji Block: Yup.
Stacy Mayer: But the other piece is that you’re also showing them that you can’t scale. You can’t move into executive leadership because your worth, your identity relies on being able to put those fires out in the middle of the night. So that’s a little bit of inspiration as you’re starting to shift your mindset because we all want to be able to make that bigger impact to get paid for our ideas and not the hours that we work. Yet we feel really stuck, and so the offer to you is to start to shift into thinking, “What would it be like to stop doing what I’m good at? To stop relying only on my subject matter expertise and just start adding in some higher-level executive leadership skills.”
Benji Block: When I think of someone in the weeds and where they’re stuck there, I think of a loyal soldier. I think of someone who’s just like, “I say yes to everything that my boss tells me or that the company needs, because it just makes me look good, or maybe feel good in the moment because I look loyal.” But it doesn’t actually build to anything, right? It doesn’t ever get you unstuck.
Stacy Mayer: You are not showing up as the leader, you are showing up as the soldier, right? I love that analogy. That’s so good. It really shows executive leadership that you’re not deliberately managing your career. It shows them that you are relying on your subject matter expertise to get ahead and sometimes it works, right? When your boss does leave, when your boss does get promoted, you might get promoted right? Like that is a distinct possibility, but this is where I get SVP’s and VP’s who come into my programs because they’re still in the weeds.
So, they scale their bad habits. Well now, they’re being forced to work 60-to-80-hour weeks. For most women, this is not why we got into working, right? This is not what we hope to do. So, we want to maximize our effectiveness at work and then be able to shut down outside of work. We don’t want to be working around the clock; we don’t want to kill ourselves in the process. So, at some point, even if you get promoted, you’re going to have to figure out how to stop being the soldier, right?
Benji Block: Right.
Stacy Mayer: You’re going to have to figure this piece out so that you can lead the other soldiers, right, so to speak. I love that.
Benji Block: Do you have an example, maybe a client who really was stuck in the weeds and some of what that transformation looked like?
Stacy Mayer: Absolutely. I will tell you about— it’s a story that I talk about in the book. So, she was a Vice President of sales in Higher Education, I’ll call her Janine. She came to me simply because she was passed over for a promotion. So, in her mind, she was coming for me to get recognition, right? Which is why you’re going to pick up this book, why you are listening to what I say, is because you’re like, “I want to get promoted.”
There were two very big things that we started to work on right away. So, one was getting her out of the weeds. So, she is referred to it as being on the basketball court, so she was really, really good at her job because she’d win on the court and solve all the final problems and shot the goal at the last minute. You know, “Hip, hip, hooray, we hit our sales numbers.” She is a really great leader, everybody really likes her, wonderful, wonderful personality, but she was going onto the court and solving all of their problems. So, when this promotion opportunity came up her boss, and her boss in her case was actually in the C-Suite. He was the chief strategy officer.
Benji Block: Okay.
Stacy Mayer: And she is a Vice President of Sales, so she technically could have become a Senior Vice President and she had been promised this for many, many years. He said to her, “You know you didn’t really want that job anyway, don’t worry about it. There’ll be something else further down the line.” And what I find with most women, when they are told this, they are like— well, in her case she was like, “I need to get a coach. I need to figure this out, because this is wrong.”
But we’ll do one of two things. We go back to our desk, we say, “The promotion didn’t really matter,” you know. “Let me figure this out with time, let me just keep doing what I am good at.”It’s like, “I’ll figure this out eventually, I have a lot of things on my plate right now.”
Benji Block: Convince yourself out of it.
Stacy Mayer: Yeah, convince myself out of it, exactly. Then the other challenge, that’s why we do hear the word imposter syndrome a lot, which is you know, we start to think maybe I wasn’t ready; just like all of these things. Or the flip side which says, “I am out of here”, right? Because, you know, these are strong women, and they are not going to put up with this.
Benji Block: Of course.
Stacy Mayer: They are like, “You ain’t going to promote me, I’m out of here”. So, what I did is, I taught her something in the middle. So, I taught her how to shift perception that she was an executive leader. So, we focused on a different set of skills. Instead of, of course, head down, keep doing what you are doing, and instead of going out and finding another job, we focused on how do we start to shift perception that she’s an executive leader, and the first thing that we did, in addition to getting her off the basketball court, I worked on having this higher-level influence with her team, we also built a huge relationship with her CEO.
Benji Block: Interesting.
Stacy Mayer: This was just so fun, Benji. It was so fun, because it was really rewarding to her. Every time her CEO sends out a memo like a generic email. It goes to the entire organization; you know it’s a very big company. Who cares, you don’t write the CEO back. She did, she’s been doing this for years. She was like, “Oh, that’s a great idea”, right? Because that’s her personality, and she really loves connecting in that way. And so first of all, I was like, “Really, you write him back? Oh, that’s great” and she’s like “Yeah, but he never writes me back, of course, he never says anything back.” And I’m like, “What if he did?” And so, I got really curious, how could we shift her little responses to actually get a reply from him? And it worked.
Benji Block: Wow!
Stacy Mayer: We started asking him a question. We started saying, you know, “This is interesting. This email that you wrote reminds me of what I heard such-and-such say, in All Hands last week”, right? And that would be it. It was just these simple sentences. So, what happened is, he started emailing her first. Then now, let’s just fast forward to where we are today, which is that her CEO meets with her personally every time he comes into town. Her CEO is putting her in front of larger groups of people in their international offices. Her CEO is actually talking about her as a thought leader, as a change-maker in her organization, he’s quoting her. And then, of course, I even didn’t even mention that she got promoted to that Senior Vice President position. So, not only did she get the position, but now she has those relationships, and she has that backing from her CEO. So, she’s actually able to do her job even better.
Benji Block: Wow, it’s such a small change, but I think so many people just overlook these little, small things. I love that it was already part of her personality.
Stacy Mayer: Yeah.
Becoming Your Own Best Advocate
Benji Block: That’s amazing. So, one of the things that I really wanted to talk to you about— and I love this— but quoting you here you said, “If you are repeatedly told that you are the nice guy, that is a problem”. I know this is kind of a weird thing to say, but you even said that this is a personal journey that you went on, right? Where you are like, okay, I need to stop people-pleasing all the time. Leaders see right through that. So, tell me about your personal journey away from people-pleasing and the importance of being aware of that.
Stacy Mayer: Yeah, well this actually came up inside one of my groups. That we were talking about our voices being too high. So, there’s a couple of things, right? Niceness is literally in our blood. I am a very nice person; I am very kind, actually. It’s one of my core values that I am kind to people. That is not a problem. And I think that’s where women get a little bit stuck because it really is rooted in my core values. I don’t talk to people who aren’t kind. There are not people in my programs who are not kind to people, right? That is just not something I do. But that added to it, and so this is where it actually plays out, the niceness becomes a real problem. So, I smile a lot, my voice is very high-pitched, I giggle a lot. And so, I thought that I needed to, this is 1980’s ‘how to get promoted’ advice for women, is lower your voice, smile less, just be more like a man, and that’s a lot of women are thinking that the option is when they’re too nice. And so, for me, I actually noticed— and I have a podcast as well— and my mom is an avid listener to it and she’s known me my whole life and she said to me one day, “Your voice is so much lower than it used to be.” And I realized that I didn’t actually lower my voice. I didn’t stop giggling; I laugh all the time. I think laughed five times on this episode, right? I didn’t stop being nice, I didn’t stop being kind. What I did is I developed my confidence and became my own best advocate.
I have a practice that I do every day, that is I trust myself. And the more that I have learned to trust myself and my opinions, what I do is, I will be willing to say the hard things. And so, when we are coming off as too nice, what is actually happening is that we’re nervous and we’re overcompensating with our niceness, right? We’re overcompensating with our giggle. I noticed most of the time, I would have two different giggles, I would have a genuine laugh and I would have a [high-pitched giggle], and it was because I was like, “I’m very uncomfortable and I just want to giggle my way out of this room”, right? And so, when people see that, especially in their executive leaders, they lose confidence in them. They say, “Well, she’s not going to be able to have the difficult conversations. She is not going to be able to say— to fire somebody. And I have clients that had to fire a heck of a lot of people during the pandemic, and it has not been an easy journey. Especially for people whose core value is rooted in kindness. And so, but it was necessary, and they had confidence in themselves that they could be both empathetic, compassionate and also rip the Band-Aid off, like do what needs to be done.
Benji Block: You have to be able to do both.
Stacy Mayer: Yeah, and as we want to bring our whole selves to executive leadership, that is what I want the women to bring. I don’t want them to be more like somebody else. I want them to feel like they can be empathetic and compassionate, but that they can also get the job done and that starts with confidence.
Benji Block: Confidence is key; I love that idea of trusting yourself. As you develop that, it leads to developing your leadership style and knowing who you are within leadership. How do you kind of start to find that rhythm and that level of self-awareness in developing your leadership style?
Stacy Mayer: So first of all, you read— I think it’s chapter three. It’s all about defining your leadership style. So, there are definitely exercises that I have inside of the book. But I think, going back to deliberately managing our career. When we are thinking about shifting from subject matter expert in to executive leader in terms of perception, we have defined what our subject matter expertise is. That is, defined what we are good at, what we are able to accomplish at our company. Now, we just have to define it as a leadership style, as an executive leader. So first of all, it’s just acknowledging that that’s the next piece of the puzzle. And when you can really define for yourself that I am a compassionate, empathetic leader who also gets it done at the end of the day and gets the results and is able to say the hard things. If that is the type of leader that you are, when you’re able to define that, you bring that into conversations. So that starts to not only define it for yourself, but it shows other people what type of leader you are. Because what they see is subject matter expert, because that’s just what you’re doing, and so now we’re going to add in this layer of, “This is how I think. This is how I make decisions. This is how I am an executive; this is why I would be an excellent executive leader.” Having that leadership style or that brand, so to speak, becomes what is going to take you through the next 20 years of your career and then all the way to the C-Suite and retirement and the board seats, and mentoring and everything else you want to do with your career.
Benji Block: Wow, well we’re nearing the end of our time together, but I loved the content of this book. I know I’m not your ideal client, I’m not the ideal person to be reading this book, but I absolutely am thrilled at the content here and how it’s going to impact so many people. I thought we could end here. The last question is really around the topic of getting comfortable with failure. But everything we have talked about so far really is predicated on us addressing our internal fears first, right? You cannot claim a seat at the table if you’re too fearful to go out and actually to go after it. And so, when you think of taking on fear headfirst, what would you maybe say to your audience and where to start?
Stacy Mayer: So, I immediately had a picture of a woman in my latest round of Executive Ahead of Time. She said that she was talking to her boss; her boss said that he was going to put her up for a promotion; she was so excited, she was having these conversations and then she added these two words at the end of it. She said, “We’ll see what—” and then she added this sentence at the end of it, she said, “We’ll see what happens”. And I said, “What if we just took that out”, and she was like “Well, um. Well, I mean it’s true, we will just see what happens”, I said, “No, what if you wanted it?”
Benji Block: Claim it.
Stacy Mayer: “What if you really wanted this promotion? What if you owned it? And then what if you knew that, if it didn’t happen, that you would be okay?” And she just looks at me and she said— and it was so beautiful. Her whole face lit up and she said, “I want it”. I was like—
Benji Block: Nice.
Stacy Mayer: “Yes!” And I think the biggest thing that women are doing is they are failing ahead of time. So, we are setting ourselves up for this sort of false level of comfort that we’re going to feel when we don’t get the promotion. Because of course, we’re not going to feel good about it when we don’t get it. Yet, we think we’re helping ourselves somehow and the challenge really is that we are not only not helping ourselves, because at the end of the day, you’re still going to be disappointed, but we’re actually sabotaging the process. So, when she says, “I want it” and she looks at me and she owns it with that conviction and that power that is already inside of her, then she doesn’t turn into desperation to her boss and be like, “So, have you decided? Has it worked out?” She acts as if it’s already done. So, then she just continues engaging with her boss, she continues engaging with the executive team knowing that she is going to have to have these relationships with the executive team when she gets promoted. So, all of these things continue to happen for her when she stops failing ahead of time. When she owns her worth when she knows that she has value. And part of the process that I take people through to get promoted into executive positions, it allows them to be successful once they get there because their mind is changing because their relationship with fear and failure is changing along the way. Then when something really big happens, like the pandemic and you have to lay off half of your team all of a sudden, you understand how to roll with change. You do have those higher-level relationships. You’re willing and able to put yourself out there for the bigger failures that could potentially happen even at your organization. So, you’ve already worked to that muscle so that you can be successful once inevitable changes start happening for you.
Benji Block: Wow, well the book is called Promotions Made Easy: A Step-by-Step Guide to the Executive Suite. Stacy, we are so glad that you have been on Author Hour with us today.
For those that want to stay connected to you— what you are doing online, you’re pumping out a lot of content— tell us where we can connect and maybe reach out.
Stacy Mayer: Well, two places. Maximize Your Career with Stacy Mayer, that is my podcast. So, as a podcast listener of the Author Hour, I am sure you can go check that out as well. And then also go to stacymayer.com; that’s where you will learn more about my executive coaching programs and then I also have free resources and an assessment there for you to take to see if you are really setting yourself up for that higher-level executive position.
Benji Block: Stacy, thanks so much for being on Author Hour today. I know this book is going to be a great resource for so many.
Stacy Mayer: Thank you, Benji. I really appreciate it.
Benji Block: Awesome.