If you want to hunt buffalo, dress like a buffalo

I was talking to a colleague who was lamenting that he was passed over when his company promoted several senior executives to VP. He felt that his responsibilities were as important as theirs and didn’t understand why he wasn’t promoted with the others.

The discussion brought to mind when I was, to me great surprise, promoted to VP. I asked the CEO why and his explanation was simple. “You’ve been acting as a VP for the past two years, the Board thought it was time to make it official.”

My Marketing mentor, when explaining how to sell to C-level executives, introduced me to the saying: “If you want to hunt buffalo, dress like a buffalo.” When my wife and I were visiting the first nation reservation north of Saskatoon Canada, I photographed a statue of just that, a buffalo hunter dressed like a buffalo.

That advice extends beyond clothing. If you want to be promoted, don’t wait to be officially appointed, behave like you already have that promotion. Ask yourself, what are the things folks with that title are expected to do proactively. What problems do they solve, what issues do they identify and communicate, in essence what exactly does it mean to act like a VP. And then do it. In time either your current or a new employer will acknowledge you officially.

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