Are You Promoting People for the Wrong Reasons? Here are 5 common mistakes

There’s a common refrain we hear from perplexed leader/managers: “We promoted ______ last year and, for some reason, he/she is struggling in the new role”. When we dig a little deeper, meeting with the various parties involved, we often discover that the promotion was almost solely based on one of the following factors:

Tenure – “We couldn’t have brought in someone new or promoted a recent hire because we had Bryan.  Bryan has been here a long time. He understands our company, he’s always been loyal and committed and so, we gave him the promotion”

Stellar performance in previous role – “Renata is a fantastic sales person. Clients love dealing with her and she always meets or exceeds her targets.  We assumed that she would also excel in the higher position so we promoted her based on her impressive track record”

DNA – “Leon is the owner’s nephew. He has grown up around the business. It was always expected that Leon would inherit this senior role. He told us he was ready for it and that he had a lot of great ideas.”

Likeability/Popularity – “Christine gets along with everyone. People respect her opinions and she has a real knack for winning others over.  We figured she would naturally be successful in the new role because of her exceptional people skills.”

Limited Time/Limited Options – “We needed someone in the director role right away as there were big projects on the line.  Amir slid into the position by default and has stayed there since.  He came through when we needed him but we’re beginning to see that he might not be the best fit for the long term.”

While all of these justifications probably seemed quite reasonable at the time, there was discord within a few months.  These are factors that may play a role in promotion, and could likely be awkward to avoid; but they need to be considered as a side note to the more important indicators of readiness, capability and fit.

Ensure that promotions are based, first and foremost, on the results of these essential processes.

  • A thorough assessment of the individual’s current capabilities and capacity for learning and growth. This needs to be a considered process and not simply a brainstorming of anecdotes and personal impressions of the candidate.
  • Demonstrated success, by the candidate, with some of the key responsibilities required by the new job. If the opportunity has not yet arisen for the individual to get involved with these responsibilities, find a way for them to do so, before you promote them.
  • Honest consideration of the candidate’s stated career goals and understanding of the culture of the business. In other words, make sure they want this career move for the right reasons and that they see it as a strong fit with their long term career goals.
  • A clear, detailed description of the position and defined measurements for success. This is the job of senior leaders and your HR professional to take the time to get this right before filling the role.
  • Acceptance from key identified executives and team members who will need to advise and support and take direction from the individual in the new role. Make sure everyone is clear on the role and how it relates to their own position and responsibilities.

It can be advantageous to bring in a third party to take an experienced and objective look at your particular situation and help with assessments, interviews and direction.  Our clients have found that they have greater success getting the right person into the right role in a deliberate and timely way with that kind of support. Give us a call for a complimentary consultation.