How Do I Succeed in a Promotion I’m Scared Of?

How to Succeed as you Take the Leap

Karin, everyone thinks I’m ready for this promotion but me. My boss, my mentor, my peers … People I respect say I’m a natural for the gig. But I just don’t see it. I’m worried that my fear will cause me to fail. Should I take this job? #AskingForAFriend


You’ve been offered a promotion, but you’re a bit scared. Makes perfect sense. That frighted feeling means you’re about to stretch and grow.

In fact, if you don’t feel like you’re flying off a trapeze, you’re probably playing it too safe.


How to Succeed as you Take the Leap

1. Get real about what scares you.

It’s easy to let fear derail your confidence.  When you can name and acknowledge your fears, their grip loosens and you can go from being stifled to making a plan.

Are you scared of letting the team down? Check-in with what they need.

Scared of the learning curve? Prioritize what’s most important to know in the first thirty days, and learn that first.


2. Leverage your strengths.

Take a deep look at your past success. What skills translate well to the new role?

You don’t have to lead like the last guy. In fact, that’s almost never the right approach. Own your past success and figure out which talents and skills will work best in your new role.

When I took over a 2200 person sales team, I had never sold a thing in my life. But what I did know was how to craft a compelling vision; the art of rallying a team around an audacious goal;  attracting, developing and retaining talent. And it turns out that, coupled with a talented team, was more than enough.


3. Admit what you don’t know.

I’ve seen “fake it till you make it” derail more than a few careers. If you don’t know what you’re doing in a certain arena, don’t try to fool your team. If you’re showing up confident and leveraging your strengths in other areas, your team will deeply respect when you tell them where you’re still learning.


4. Partner with your peers.

The first day in my contact center director role at Verizon, our biggest customer had a huge network outage.

Having spent my entire career in HR up to that point, I didn’t have a clue how to talk to their IT Vice President about the root cause. I called my peer Dan for help. He said, “Conference me when you call him back and I’ll instant message you what to say.” I got through the call and we got the problem fixed. Then Dan said, “Now to return the favor, why don’t you come to Brooklyn next month and help me with some employee engagement initiatives?”

Perfect, back to leveraging strengths.


5.  Maximize the talents of your team.

Not knowing what you’re doing can actually be a real advantage for leading a team. Including your best people in decisions becomes a matter of survival. You’ve got to trust your team. You’ve got to ask a lot of strategic questions and learn from them. All of which turns out to be great approaches for building high engagement.


Your turn.

What advice would you have for this friend who’s scared to take this promotion?