Expectations For Climbing The Corporate Ladder
By Bob Norton
It is the goal of all quality organizations
to provide its employees with a superior opportunity to grow, both
individually and as professionals. Nothing has greater impact than
hiring the right people and having them develop simultaneously with
the company’s own growth. It has been frequently shown that appreciation
and growth can be stronger motivators for an employee than money and
can result in reduced turnover, improved customer service and ultimately
generates superior profits for the company. With this in mind, it is
best to lay out clear expectations for performance so that employees
can achieve both personal and professional growth. Employees should
understand that their employer is committed to making every effort
to educate them so that they can expand their horizons and take on
new responsibilities over time.
A system like this provides some transparency
to the “mysterious” process of promotion and professional
growth that many employees think is biased, unfair, or a function
of pure politics. These beliefs can cause people and organizations
to stagnate as everyone becomes resigned to the fact that they cannot
compete based on some untrue belief. The following article make more
transparent what people must do to move up the organizational ladder
and achieve certain career goals. Publishing it inside your company
can make it clear to your employees that rewards and promotions are
there for those people that earn them, and not for those that play
politics, look busy, or cozy up to the boss.
In the top organizations, reward is always
based on merit and political factors are simply a way to generate
more opportunities for visibility. The following is designed to describe
the typical expectations of employees at various levels, and to provide
a framework for their personal and professional development. It should
have a huge impact on many people and hence your entire organization.
appropriate in new working relationships in order to get
up to speed on each other’s strengths, weaknesses and
Management by Objective (MBO)
(including some Supervisors)
Management by Exception (MBE)
Business Managers, CEOs, GM, Managing
Expectations of Individual Contributors:
Employees at this level require daily supervision,
if not even more frequently. As such, they are "micromanaged" and
cannot be expected to pursue larger objectives than fairly simple,
straightforward and repetitive tasks (See article on Management Methods).
The bulk of all employees fall into this category and will stay there
until they are shown how to develop into a management level employee.
The necessary skills and traits for this level are as follows:
identify, resolve and avoid basic problems in their narrow
functional area of the business.
- Can interact and influence co-workers,
customers, clients, suppliers, vendors and job applicants in
a courteous and professional manner to produce favorable results.
- These employees are expected to effectively and
efficiently manage their time, materials and space.
- Can proactively initiate ideas, set simple goals
and account for results.
- These employees are expected to be bright
and have a positive, can-do attitude. Clearly there is a law
of averages here in larger companies, but bright employees should
warrant additional compensation and all businesses should strive
to hire the best people it can find.
- Can perform specific short-term
tasks with no more than daily management/supervision.
- Some younger employees may not have developed
a specific valuable skill set, or decided on a career path, but
all employees are expected to seek the training and practical experiences
they need to carry out their responsibilities and improve themselves.
- Need to work on their ability to understand the
business and organization as a whole.
- Need to work on their ability to plan
in advance and therefore deliver projects on time.
- Seek to inform
their manager of ways to improve customer service and increase
- Help others in their group achieve their goals
by filling in where necessary and cross training.
- Need to develop
a consistent positive attitude and a plan for skill set development.
- Generally, only expected to work 40-45 hours per
week. A greater level of commitment in time for self-development
will be necessary for advancement to managerial responsibilities.
Supervisor - A supervisor is someone who is capable of managing
a small group (1-7 people) with a specific skill set (i.e. telemarketing,
physical jobs). Generally, they have done the job before and
understand all of its requirements. Although many of the skills
of a manager would be beneficial, this is a much less demanding
position. It requires the expertise to hire, train, and fire people
and to plan one week to one month in advance for workload variations.
A supervisor may be working on becoming a manager, or alternatively,
could be a career supervisor, who has reached their limits, or
desire, for professional growth.
Expectations of Managers: (Includes
all of the above PLUS:)
Employees at this level can be “managed
by objective” (MBO) and left to “take a small hill” by
themselves. They do not require "micromanagement". A weekly
meeting with their superior is generally all that is needed. (See
article on Management
Methods) Typically, a company needs one manager
for each 5-8 employees, although this can vary greatly. A good manager
can effectively manage this number of people well and still complete
the work necessary for their own projects (scope). A manager must
have the flowing skills and traits:
- Good working relationship with people and
is considered "fair" and consistent. Has the ability
to manage 1 to 25 people effectively with 3 to 7 direct reports.
communicate effectively to subordinates, peers and other functional
areas in writing and orally.
- Documents well so that everyone above and below them
knows what happened or is going to happen, in advance when appropriate,
and can leverage their work product, not repeat it.
- Can evaluate, hire, fire and train people to perform
all tasks in their department (understands each area well).
- Can develop written short term (1 month) and long
term (1 year) plans, set priorities and allocate resources.
- Can anticipate all the needs of their department
for at least one year in advance (both people and other resources)
and prepares in advance of the need (i.e. finds people in advance
of need so they arrive just-in-time).
- Measures performance (quality
and quantity) in their area and aggressively fine tunes it (quality
and quantity). Is constantly improving the efficiency of their
department and its people as well as developing the skills of
- Delivers promised projects on-time and within
budget. If a project will be late they always give plenty of advanced
notice of this to their superior and all others to whom the project
- Always keeps their people highly utilized.
- Does whatever it takes to deliver output on-time, including
being proactive enough to find out what they need to know to achieve
their goals and make quality decisions. Unfortunately this is
a skill possessed by less than five percent of all people. It is “self-actualization” or
an inherent drive to improve themselves. This is someone
who is aware of what they don't know, and seeks to learn
it in advance of the need. They are not only thinking
ahead, but also always improving themselves to be prepared for
those future requirements. Without this skill an employee
is not likely to make it to the executive level on merit
and will not keep up with a fast growing company.
good overall judgment and knows the limits of their knowledge
and that of others so as to avoid making decisions that should
be brought before their superiors. (A fallback to the previous
requirement when there is not enough time to learn everything needed).
- Can budget for a department and manage within those
financial limitations at all times.
- Can negotiate with outside vendors
to get a good deal for the business.
- Needs direction from their
superior on a weekly to monthly basis.
- Manages their superiors (managing
up) and keeps them informed of all successes and
failures with advance notice on important issues.
- Works 50 hours minimum and 60 to 70 hour weeks
when and as needed (not all the time or even on site, but as needed)
to achieve promised goals.
- Sets an example of professionalism,
quality, effort and positive attitude.
- Works at developing a
greater level of understanding of the other functional areas of
- Understands who is responsible
for everything done in
the organization and confers
with other managers and
executives as needed.
- Expected to ignore, not create, bureaucracy
except as absolutely needed and circumvents it when needed to perform
- Anxious to take on new responsibilities,
but they know when to avoid this because of resource constraints,
among other things.
- Responsible for representing the company in
a positive way to all employees and the outside world
- Should develop their abilities to "sell" their
ideas and the company both internally and to
the outside world.
Additional Expectations of Executives: (Directors and Vice Presidents)
(Includes all of the above PLUS:)
Additional Expectations of
Executives: (Directors and Vice Presidents)
(Includes all of the above PLUS:)
Employees at this level can run a business,
or division thereof, and be “managed by exception” (MBE),
which requires infrequent intervention to test and calibrate goals
with the company's CEO, Board of Directors or shareholders on major
strategic goals and decisions. (See article on Management Methods)
Although only one executive may be needed in smaller companies or
those that do not seek high growth or more than 20 employees, for
a company to be truly successful on a large scale it will need one "executive" level
person in each key discipline that is required for the company to
deliver its product or service to customers (i.e. sales, operations,
customer service, product development). Sometimes this is called
the "3 legged stool", as they look for experts who have "done
it all before" in sales, operations and product development
(or whichever areas are the critical success factors for that business).
- Can oversee 1 to 10 managers and leverage
their skills and knowledge with 50+ people.
- Never lets others prevent their personal and department
goals from being achieved (proactive).
- Proactive self-starter who identifies problems and implements
solutions for those problems (in any area of the company) before
they are a real issue for their area of responsibility.
- Views the business broadly and understands the constraints
placed on it by financial, personnel, management, industry, sales
and other factors both inside and outside the organization.
- Seeks to learn everything they need to know without
someone else suggesting it. Always on a self-improvement program.
- Manages their superiors by keeping them well informed
in advance of needs.
- Responsible for the protection of all the
company's interests within their scope.
- Explores each and every
option before making any major decision.
- Tests new items and ideas on a smaller scale
and takes reasonable risks which could improve the business.
- Comes up with larger scale ideas for the
executive team to evaluate.
- Is thinking 2-3 years in advance of
needs, and develops and revises these plans as necessary
by maintaining a 1 to 3 year plan for their functional
- Creates their own development by helping
to grow the company and creating new responsibilities and new business
- Does what it takes to help others deliver on time.
- Helps managers grow and develop their executive
- Averages 50-60 hour weeks with 70 and 80 hours
as needed (not all the time or even on site, but if and when necessary)
to accomplish their goals and remove any growth restrictions for
- Looks for ways to save costs and improve
productivity throughout the entire company.
- Needs little direction other than the
vision of the company and long-term strategic goals from the CEO
and Board of Directors.
- Proactive, not reactive. Manages risks
through a regular plan to seek out and identify both risks and
- Has a strong legal, fiduciary responsibility and
understands that, as an officer, they may bear some personal
liability for their individual actions and those of the corporation.
- Demonstrates ethics that put businesses interests
before personal benefits in decisions that may result in personal
impact or conflict of interest.
Norton is the author of four books on growing companies and CEO of
C-Level Enterprises, Inc. which helps companies grow more rapidly
with products, training and consulting.
Permission is granted to use this article and list as long as the
paragraph below is included in full:
system was developed by Bob Norton, CEO of C-Level Enterprises, Inc. which
helps companies grow more rapidly through seminars, consulting and
publishing books and tapes. See