When I was just getting started as a salesman, I initiated a contest that would track and rank the progress of all of the salespeople in the department, and score everyone according to two criteria: 1. Total margin earned and 2. Total gross dollars sold. Whichever salesperson ranked the highest at either criteria at the end of each 2-week paycheque cycle would win a prize. The prizes were 2x $50 gift certificates to the store of their choice to buy something fun for themselves.

What was unique about the contest was that the prize money came out of MY paycheque. I was offering additional commission, above and beyond what the company paid, on my own dime. And I never told the other staff the entire time I worked at the company, and they never knew about it until after I’d left.

Why would I do this? Why would I reward the people who were literally my peers, who had the same job title as me and worked side-by-side with me? Because I believed that if you desire promotion, you must picture yourself as the leader and act accordingly. My belief was that if the team succeeded, then the company would succeed. I wasn’t looking at benefiting myself short-term. I wanted our sales team to dominate and was willing to do nearly anything legal and moral to motivate them to trounce our competition.

Imagine doing this in your own company. Go in to work tomorrow and take a good look at the person working beside you who has the same level of responsibility. Now imagine taking $100 off of each of your paycheques and giving it to them as a bonus, every two weeks, for a job well done. Sound crazy? That’s exactly what I was willing to do, and I did it for a long, long time.

If you want to get a promotion to Manager, act like a Manager. If you want a promotion to Director or VP, then act like a Director or a VP. Ask yourself “What does a leader do?” They look at their department and wonder aloud “What does my team need from me?” and they provide it. Your team needs obstacles removed, processes streamlined, career paths and learning plans developed, interpersonal conflicts resolved, a culture of excellence, resources made available, and tools that work. If your team is missing any of these things, volunteer to help your leader get it changed.

Do as the best leaders do. Generate ideas. Come early and stay late. Dress the part. When all the other staff wore t-shirts and jeans, I walked into work wearing a suit, silk tie, cufflinks, and a silk handkerchief folded neatly in my breast pocket. You want the leaders looking at you and thinking “This person has massive potential! They carry themselves like a leader! They are always serving their team so that the business can succeed… they are proactive and think strategically… by George, let’s get them into a more formal position of leadership!”

Eventually, it came time to find a new North American Manager of sales. Interestingly, they didn’t post the job publicly, and they didn’t post the job internally. They had decided they only wanted one person for the role, and wouldn’t even consider another candidate. I’ll give you three guesses as to who was offered the job. If you want a promotion, act like the job you want.