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Why You Didn’t Get That Promotion by John Beeson

Updated on January 14, 2012

HBR Article Review of the John Beeson Article

Back in 2009 I read an article by John Beeson entitled ‘Why You Didn’t Get That Promotion’ (Harvard Business Review , June 2009, pp. 101-105) and this resonated with me about how I should behave in order to gain a promotion or a higher level position.

Beeson categorised the key factors in executive career advancement into three areas – non-negotiables, deselection factors and core selection factors. Let’s review what each of these are:


These are factors that are absolutely necessary for an executive to be considered for a promotion:

  • Demonstrating consistently strong performance and KPI attainment – are your results strong, do you attain all of your sales targets or KPIs, are you an example to others?
  • Displaying ethics, having strong integrity and character – do you have a strong character and treat people (staff, customers, suppliers, etc) ethically and consistently?
  • Being driven to lead and to take on higher levels of responsibility and activity – are you taking on new projects and promoting yourself as being ready to lead and to take the next step in your career?

These non-negotiables will get you to at least an interview stage, where the next two factors come into play.

Deselection Factors

These are the characteristics that prevent you from being considered as a serious candidate for the next level:

  • Having weak interpersonal skills – top managers and leaders get on well with all levels of people and truly care about people. This helps to lead and inspire people to greatness
  • Treating others with caring about their feelings or abrasiveness – by not putting the staff member first as a true servant leader can create insensitivity and can become a deselection factor. Having high self awareness is key in an top level leadership role
  • Putting self interest above company good – a good company person that is always looking for ways to make the organisation stronger rather than their own position is a key factor in executive recruitment
  • Holding a narrow perspective on the business – in other words working in silos

Core Selection Factors

These are capabilities that develop others’ confidence in your ability to be successful and to be promoted to the senior executive level:

  • Helping to develop and lead the strategic intent of the business; being a business development manager by spotting marketplace trends and creating a strategy that differentiates the company that is successful
  • Constructing a a strong executive team that is focussed on the strategic intent of the business; recruiting the right people and talent planning and management; creating the concept of One Team across the organisation
  • Developing a strategy of implementation without getting into the detail of implementation - leave this for the relevant staff; Making sure that the work is defined clearly so that it gets done right every time
  • Building the capacity and ability for change and innovation across the business; knowing when to change business process in the organisational lifecycle; having being able to bring change to fruition and having the guts to implement it
  • Being able to work cross functionally in order to get things done; know the organisation and the underlying politics; being the influencer in the organisaion; dealing with conflict in appropriate ways in order to get a great outcome for the organisation
  • Investing in oneself in order to become a better executive; asking for feedback and responding to it; using the dance philosophy to handle communication with different groups


While the non-negotiables are the bare minimum that one needs in order to advance their career at an executive level anyone of the deselection factors can put you out of the running. By regularly reviewing the core selection factors and how you are behaving in regards to these can assist you in your future prospects. Another key to remember is that these are the areas that an interviewer is trying to uncover during an interview, so you need to believe and to be driven by these ideals.

Since June 2009 these key factors have sat next to my PC and I review them on a daily basis as I continue on my pathway into an Executive position.

So, thank you John Beeson on publishing your research in Harvard Business Review and giving aspiring Executives a pathway to career success.


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