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Making Smart Promotions


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Many leaders are guilty of making bad promotion decisions. Such decisions are most detrimental in small- to medium-sized companies–where the “ripple-effect” is boundless–versus larger institutions.

Consider the following:

A CEO was walking to her office when she heard yelling. One of her newly-promoted managers was scolding a new hire, just three weeks out of college. The reprimand was about details being missed in a recent “deliverable” to a client. The manager barked, “Do you see how you make me look? What the @!#% were you thinking? Are you an idiot? Your job is on the line.”

One has to wonder, was this new manager being reasonable to expect the new hire (with no work experience) to know all the finer points, nuances and intricacies of the business and the client? Was the CEO partially to blame? Was she guilty of the classic faux pas of promoting her best salesperson to sales manager?

The potential outcomes of the newly-promoted manager’s rant:

  1. New hire quits.
  2. New hire tells friends/family about the experience, which impacts the company “brand.” Potential customers and employees avoid the organization.
  3. Word of the altercation spreads. Other employees avoid the new manager.
  4. New manager gets frustrated and resigns, joining the competition and taking the business’ client-base.
  5. Other employees fear similar attacks, so they become reticent to share creativity and innovation.
  6. The new manager and new hire both depart, leaving Pat with vacancies that could take six months to fill. Opportunity costs skyrocket and profitability falls short of projections.

In order to establish and sustain growth for their small to medium-sized organizations, leaders often feel immediate action is best in these kinds of situations. The “noise” in their heads tells them to do the following as quickly as possible:

  1. Grow the business
  2. Establish the brand
  3. Capture market-share
  4. Increase profitability
  5. Show upward mobility
  6. Ensure client retention
  7. Reward perceived best employees
  8. Retain perceived best employees

For many, this is a “business as usual” tactic and a formula for disaster.

When the CEO was asked why she promoted her top salesperson to manager, she replied, “I didn’t want to lose him to the competition. He does great work. The clients love him. The only way to pay him more–based on our pay scale–was to promote him.”

While great leaders know they need business plans, marketing plans, sales plans, and communication plans to be successful, few understand that promotion plans are just as necessary.

  • Did the CEO have support from her executive team or was this a unilateral decision?
  • Did she ever consider the maturity of the individual and his capacity to think of the well-being and development of others?
  • Did this person want the promotion, and was it ever discussed as part of his professional development?
  • Is this person considered a team player or an individual contributor?

As a leader, you want great managers working for you. When looking to promote individuals from a senior position to a managerial position, consider the following:

  • Natural Communication Styles: How do these people relate to others and influence others? Do they foster collaborative relationships or are they more “command and demand” types?
  • What are the influences that have shaped these people into who they are?
  • What are their motivations? Why do they do what they do? How do they work with others? Do they work through others to achieve their results?
  • Do they see others as tools? Do only the outcomes matters?
  • Do they see people as compliments/supplements to their own skills, experiences, and natural tendencies? Will they hire individuals to ensure success, or would they hire individuals simply to support their rise to the next level?
  • Are they aware of their own developmental needs? Do they constantly judge and compare themselves to others?
  • Are they “givers”? Do they constantly consider what’s best for the greater good of the organization? Or, are they “takers,” always tuned into “WIIFM” (What’s In It For Me)?

When promoting individuals, great leaders find success when they collaborate with their executive teams and prepare their organizations. They know that without support from all those involved they have an equation for failure.

Making promotion decisions in a vacuum, without structure and guidelines in place, will wreak havoc with the company in ways a leader cannot imagine. One person can have a major impact on the success of the business. Let that person be you, the leader to choose fellow leaders aligned with your strategic outcomes and heart-felt desires.

The choice is yours!

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