11 Sep

Leverage Lateral Promotions into a Quantum Career Leap!

Today’s leaders often view lateral promotions as a setback vs. an opportunity, and out of fear they pass them up – which can result in a real career setback.

But I never saw promotions across the grid as an impediment to progress. Over my career I’ve taken plenty of lateral moves as an intentional strategy to attain better long-term promotions. Many leading organizations now want to invest in leaders who have adopted that approach. They want people at the top who have a comprehensive view of the entire organization and a breadth and depth of experience to match that wide perspective.

The new way to plan for your next promotion is by viewing your promotional strategy like a game of checkers or chess. You have to know when to make a lateral or diagonal move that will put you in an ideal position to ramp-up your vertical momentum. Here are just some of the benefits to employing this innovative “zigzag your way to the top™” approach.

Add to your repertoire of leadership experience.

The best way to get a genuine working overview of what various teams or departments do is through acceptance of lateral responsibilities. Those positions put your own boots on the ground and in the trenches for a firsthand education.

Gain panoramic perspective.

The more teams you have led, the more effective and credible you will be as the leader of the whole enterprise. You’ll understand the contributions and challenges of teams throughout the grid, and people across the organization will see you as a known and trusted leader, not an unfamiliar newcomer.

Learn from a variety of bosses/mentors.

Along the way you’ll have the advantage of learning from lots of different bosses and mentors whose backgrounds are from varied fields and disciplines. That’s something that will never happen if you stay on a narrow vertical path.

Show you can swiftly and easily adapt.

Companies need to be nimble in order to adjust and compete in a rapidly changing business world. To do that they need leadership that knows how to quickly evaluate a new situation and find out-of-the-box solutions. But that’s a trait automatically developed by those who frequently adapt to lateral or diagonal roles and responsibilities.

Prove your competency leading diverse work units.

Use lateral promotions to prove that you can be an inclusive and effective leader and team player across diverse departments and teams. That is the kind of leadership organizations want to represent their diversified goals and interests in the boardroom.

Network with key movers and shakers.

Accepting lateral responsibility gives you are a rare opportunity to branch out with your professional network. You will forge long-term relationships, both inside and outside of the organization, and those can be critical to your success as you ascend to higher leadership positions.

Broaden your skill set.

Everyone needs to constantly upgrade their skill set. But each time you shift into a new position of responsibility that occurs naturally as you learn the ropes at an unfamiliar location, in a different department, or while faced with a new set of mandates.

Deepen your knowledge, confidence, and credibility.

Nothing sinks a career faster than shouldering heavy responsibility prematurely. But lateral promotions ensure that you fully develop in progressive fashion, and they are an ideal proving ground. Companies can test a high potential’s ability to step outside their comfort zone and still perform, while leaders can hone their confidence in preparation for what lies ahead.

Become a more valued asset.

Lateral promotions amplify your value and put the ripple effect to work for your career by expanding your sphere of influence and expertise. That makes zigzag promotions one of the most convenient ways to dramatically accelerate your marketability and earning power.

Outmaneuver your competition.

Most people are vying for the same vertical “elevator” promotions. If you learn to recognize zigzag opportunities you can capitalize on the ones you want and will have less competition for those key positions. You’ll also outmaneuver your competitors en route to winning the longer range career game.

Cure the burnout syndrome.

Concerned about career burnout? After all, it is one of the most prevalent causes of career collapse for high-flying leaders. Inoculate yourself against it by picking and choosing lateral and diagonal promotions that guarantee that your work remains interesting, engaging, challenging, and stimulating. Your success will feel more satisfying and be more sustainable.

Enjoy more work/life balance and career fulfillment.

Want greater fulfillment, personal flexibility, and a healthier work/life balance? Those are premium perks in today’s workplace. But many leaders overlook them because they are too focused on upward mobility. Sometimes the richest benefit package is the one you customize for yourself by seizing the opportunities that lateral promotions offer.

Having a strong, diverse portfolio of performance across the organizational grid makes you a more desirable candidate for any top position. Companies invest heavily in leaders with that kind of leadership. But it’s up to you to use your strategic vision to make moves that enable you to develop your wide-ranging experience and talent.


As a pioneering and visionary innovator, Sarah is a certified professional image consultant and brand strategist, speaker, trainer and author. Her company, Illustra Consulting, provides leading-edge image and brand management strategies for top leaders and high achievers who wish to take their career to the next level. She also delivers innovative and inspiring corporate workshops to assist large organizations in strengthening their corporate brand.

Illustra Consulting
Copyright © 2012, Sarah Hathorn, AICI CIP, CPBS

1-800-267-3245, [email protected]
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Sarah Hathorn
Sarah Hathorn, CEO of Hathorn Consulting Group, is the go-to-expert in working with leaders and companies to create successful corporate DNA. As an executive coach, consultant and speaker she collaborates globally with clients and brands such as Kimberly-Clark, Sherwin-Williams, Home Depot and other leading organizations.
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800-267-3245, [email protected]

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