Take heed of the perils of promotion

THERE is always a good-news, bad-news aspect to getting promoted. The good news is obvious. There is the money, power and status, and the proof that your company loves you.

The downside is a little more subtle. Amid all the applause that attends your promotion, there are perils you cannot afford to ignore.

If the good news in a promotion is that you have triumphed over your rivals, then the bad news is that the rivals are still there, sharpening their blades, waiting for you to fall.

I remember a few years ago when a friend of mine was named a division chief at a major American company. The move was a giant upset and took everyone by surprise.

No one was more surprised than my friend's chief rival who, in everyone's estimation, had been considered the front runner for the job.

This rival spent the next few years dedicated to nailing my friend. And when the dust had settled and all his schemes were in place, the rival did indeed leapfrog my friend into the company's top spot.

I've seen this happen time and time again. Someone gets promoted and then gets derailed off the fast track by a rival who attacked him on his flanks.

What can you do to guard your flanks? One approach would be to co-opt your rivals. Let's assume the decision to promote you is a wise one, that you are, in fact, the best person for the job. If so, you should be working very hard to convince your peers (who may still be smouldering at the thought of reporting to you) how much you need them and how much it can affect their future.

If you're as good as advertised, you can afford to check your ego and make an effort to build up theirs.

Be frontal about it. Tell them: ''Look, I realise you're probably not thrilled that I have this job. But I respect your talents and I want you on the team. If we make it work, we'll all be way ahead.'' Make them feel good, whatever it takes.

The other approach is to eliminate all the potential back-stabbers and defeatists. This is certainly a viable, and frequently exercised, option in American business.

The one thing you can't do with rivals is ignore them.

The chairman of an investment bank once told me that he always makes a point of assigning newly promoted bankers to a high-profile deal.

''It helps their reputation internally and increases their visibility externally,'' he said.

You may not have a boss or mentor who is that solicitous or caring. But any edge that can smooth your path in the first few weeks is worth exploiting.

The biggest edge within your control is timing. If you can walk into a new job when the timing favours you - say, when all the numbers are pointing up and some easy victories are yours for the taking - by all means do so.

If the numbers are pointing down, and ''you're just the person to turn them around'', you may want to pause and reconsider your timing.

There are times when you sense a promotion contains a no-win element. For example, the company promotes you to a job with the expectation that you will achieve certain goals. You may appreciate their confidence in you, but you are not sure their expectations are realistic.

It is very important to share that concern with the company before rather than after you accept the job.

Never underestimate the power of your personality in determining the ultimate success or failure of a promotion.

Quite often, a promotion looks perfect on paper and then the personal element ruins the design.

We once hired a famous athlete for our television sales division. We figured he was a phenomenally popular and visible person who knew sports, understood television and was known and admired by everyone in the advertising community.

He could enter any door in corporate America simply by getting on the phone. The only problem: he wouldn't call. He couldn't sell. He couldn't ask people to buy.

A perfect job for a slightly imperfect person turned into disaster.

The same thing can happen to you. Your bosses many be telling you that you are perfect for the promotion. Your resume may shout out in agreement. But if you sense that something in the new job doesn't mesh with your personality, you are better off walking away.

Believe me, when the promotion turns sour, no one will remember that they were wrong to push and you were right to hesitate. It will be their mistake, but it will be your failure.