The Introvert’s Guide to Getting Promoted: the Most Important Step

So we’ve spent the last few days reflecting on how the great CEOs make talent management a priority and how they and their staffs cultivate a continuous awareness of high-potential team members in the organization. 

I shared with you my experience as an executive leadership trainer learning that the vast majority of executives turned out to be extraverts, and set out on a quest to show my fellow introverts that it is still possible to become a highly successful executive…as long as you follow a few important steps!

So, on Tuesday we delved into Step Onethe importance for you as an individual leader to be visible in the organization – how you need to get on the “radar screen” of senior executives and the C-Suite whenever possible – in order to be more successful at getting promoted.  We followed this yesterday with Step Two – how in addition to making yourself visible in the organization you must work extra hard as an introvert to ensure that your ideas are visible as well.

Which brings us to today’s third and final step…

THE FINAL (and most important!) STEP: ASK FOR THE JOB YOU WANT

This was by far, for me, the most important factor in being promoted 8 times in 12 years – I told management (in a very respectful and professional way) what I wanted to do next and asked for their help in enabling me to get there.   

They were always more than willing to help me.  Why? I was fortunate to work in an organization that understood the importance of having employees in roles that they were passionate about – with, of course, the underlying assumption that you have the skills and experiences necessary to do the job well.  I hope that is the case for you – either as the CEO creating that type of environment or as the leader looking to advance in your organization.

Now, why might this be more difficult for us introverts? As Wikipedia reminds us, “Briggs and Myers recognized that each of the cognitive functions can operate in the external world of behavior, action, people, and things (extraverted attitude) or the internal world of ideas and reflection (introverted attitude).”  Simply put, I think sometimes introverts need to be more conscious about acting (which includes actively asking) than our extraverted colleagues.

How to Go About Asking for the Role You Want:

OneWay: Methodically

In other words, if you know exactly what you want – either a specific role or a type of role – make a plan regarding who should know about this desire, who might be able to help you, and who might have some great advice for you in regard to that role.

Remember those one-on-one coffee meetings we discussed in Step One as a way to gain visibility to upper management?  Those are a great opportunity to talk about where you want to go next in the organization and ask for advice on how to get there.

I did this myself as a relatively new employee when I had coffee one day with the VP of Marketing for what was Baxter’s largest business.  I had joined Baxter in the finance organization (surprised?) and quickly realized it was not where my strengths would be best utilized.  I told him I wanted to move into a marketing role in his business and asked for his advice in getting there.

Not only did he give me very specific advice, he ended up writing me a recommendation to Kellogg for my MBA (he felt I either needed an MBA or needed to be working towards one) and when a position opened up a year later, reporting to him, I got the job.

Another Way: Not so Methodically

You don’t need to know exactly what you want before you express a desire for a role with increased responsibility.  If you are ready for more responsibility – whether it be financial (managing a larger business), strategic (a strategically important business with unique challenges), relational (managing partnerships or key client bases), or whatever – I strongly encourage introverts to let executives know this and to let them know why you’re passionate about it.

Don’t wait for positions to open up – plant seeds in executives’ minds well before they do.  Let’s be honest. For the majority of C-Level and upper level leadership roles before a position is posted the higher level executives already have a pretty good idea in their mind of who the candidates are for the role – and in some cases they may already have a strong preference of who they want in that role.  Now, in most companies there may be a required “posting” process, and in some cases a decision will be made to go outside the organization and use a recruiter.  But, on the whole, the more aware executives are of your interest in a particular area and how you’d be a great fit, the more likely you’ll be “top of mind” when an opportunity arises.

So, my fellow introverts, let’s make sure that if we want a role in the C-Suite that we are not letting our introversion get in the way!  I encourage you to…

  • Make yourself visible in the organization
  • Make your ideas visible in the organization
  • Ask for the promotion and roles that you want


Are you an introvert who feels that your introversion has gotten in the way of you being promoted?  Do you tend to see extraverts in executive roles? I would be honored if you would share your insights in the comments…

UPDATE: My new eBook, “The Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership” is NOW AVAILABLE! You may Download it at for only $7.99 or BUY IT at Amazon for Kindle! 

This 60+ page eBook is for introverts who want to use their introversion to their advantage in business and leadership, and for extroverts who lead introverts and wish to be more effective leaders.

This series was initially inspired by my friend Mack Collier’s “The Introvert’s Guide to Speaking” post, which in turn inspired my post titled, “You’re Just Not That Into Me: The Introvert’s Guide to Attending a Conference.”

Photo is “juliusturm – last steps to the light ” by extranoise


  1. Lisa,
    I so enjoyed reading this three part series. You have covered this topic beautifully providing a clear road-map that a young person can adopt. The reason I say young person is that as time goes by your “window of opportunity” begins to close. Yes, really.

    This happens sometimes because you need to make personal career decisions as a result of childcare issues, moving to another state because of your spouse’s employment and/or education, elderly parents that need your time, your own health…and just growing older. (The age thing I learned when I was 48 and returning to CA after successfully owning and selling my own business–I found it was easier to get an interview if I deleted everything on the resume that was an age indicator.)

    So how does your roadmap assist the older manager/team leader/supervisor? In my opinion, you answered this on Day 2: “I took the opportunity each month to send a letter to every single executive that my team members reported to, demonstrating the progress that the team was making and highlighting how their particular team member was positively impacting my team. I talked about the value that each team member’s ideas were creating.”

    You see, sometimes what we do for others helps the corporation succeed and therefore we can succeed. And sometimes our success is just enjoying the success of others. For eight years I had the distinct pleasure and honor of supervising a team of Business Systems Analysts, but I always felt that my real job was to guide, motivate, and promote these individuals.

    I did this not just in day to day interactions, but in the “memos” to senior management, the performance evaluations and project meetings. I remember when this company decided to offer Business Casual as a benefit! I took this as an opportunity to teach my team about the importance of presentation. I purchased a book about how to dress for business casual and shared it with each team member. This may seem like a minor issue, but I wanted them to know that you just never know who is going to walk into the corporate office and the fact that you’re wearing a belt might make or break your advancement!

    Well, Lisa, I am going to close now. Here’s to all those who will travel your road-map to success!


    • Judy,

      Having read your comment I just know you would love the book, “Greater Than Yourself” by Steve Farber. Steve was a “Masterind Team” member of mine at the most recent sobcon conference and worked with Tom Peters for many years. The premise of his book and his current work is the importance of sharing everything with someone in a level below you in such a selfless way that they become better at what you do than you do, but in the process, you become much greater yourself. I think what you wrote about encapsulates that premise perfectly.

      You must be a tremendous leader to work for – and I think buying the book for your team was a significant gesture of your investment in their success!

      Thank you for sharing your brilliance here so beautifully and so regularly – I am honored to have you as a reader/friend/inspiration!

    • Steve S (ShimCode) says:

      Judy…and Lisa too

      Good ideas. I’m going to make an effort to use these with my four teenagers.

      Regardless as to maturity and ability, we are all often somewhat introverted and can benefit from new ideas.



      • Steve,

        Thank you! Honored to know that you’ll be sharing these ideas with the people who are most important to you!

        I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to comment. All the very best to you… :)

  2. Good advice! My sense is that is that introverts will lag behind. It’s a skill to know when it’s “showtime” and to have the ability to turn it on when seeking promotion. I think the bigger problem is with management that’s not insightful enough to identify and appreciate the strong, silent types among them :-)
    Hans Hageman´s last blog post ..What We Believe Makes All The Difference

    • Hans,

      I appreciate that perspective in regard to lagging behind – I hope that introverts will use their energy wisely and avoid having that happen to them.

      And I love your comment about the “strong, silent types…!” Not all of us introverts are silent but it’s a nice analogy! Thank you, as always, for sharing your perspective and for taking the time to do so!

  3. Hi Lisa,
    I’m coming a bit late to the discussion but thanks for the post!

    I just wanted to add that I hope introverts find a way to get promoted which does not impinge too strongly on their introverted personality.

    It’s a bit like feminism really – at first women who wanted to get ahead had to embody very masculine characteristics, but over time they have managed to become more feminine and still succeed. It has opened the way for more feminine men as well I think.

    I hope that introverts climbing the career ladder will avoid the trap of “acting like an extravert” to get ahead, and instead find a middle way. Once they are at the top, I hope they use their position to reform the system to enable junior introverts to reach their potential, and help all extraverts to understand the benefits introverts bring.

  4. Hi Alice,

    I don’t know that the system needs to be reformed, but I’d love to see more introverts “own their power” so to speak. Those who become leaders of organizations will, by the very nature of their approach to leadership, transform the culture – perhaps ever so slightly. But ultimately it’s up to individuals to make their voices heard. :)

    Perhaps step one is simply to banish the fear of leading differently. :)

    So glad you joined the conversation – it is never too late!


  1. […] TOMORROW: STEP THREE of The Introvert’s Guide to Getting Promoted…This post was initially inspired by my friend Mack Collier’s “The Introvert’s Guide to Speaking” post, which in turn inspired my post titled, “You’re Just Not That Into Me: The Introvert’s Guide to Attending a Conference.” […]

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