This post is inspired by Steve Tobak. Back in July he wrote a post entitled Why That Big Promotion Can Be a Curse. Steve's post focused on failed CEO promotions in light of the BP debacle but it really got me to thinking about failed promotions at all levels of an organization and "why those little promotions can also be a curse".
In North American culture, we are taught from early ages to desire "status". Early on (whether we as parents like it or not) society teaches our children that they are more "important" if they have it. We get a bit more excited and proud when they are elected as team captain or president of "something". Colleges are impressed by early demonstrations of leadership. As we go out into the world, we are considered more successful if we move "up" into management. We gain more money and we gain more respect.
It is what it is. No judgment here.
The problem is that all too often, when we promote our high performers, we do nothing to ensure their continued success and when they fumble their way to failure, everyone loses.
For the sake of clarity, we'll place promotions into two distinct buckets: managerial and non-managerial.
Non-managerial promotions tend to involve technical expertise (ie promotion from Lab Tech One to Lab Tech Two). They may involve some implied leadership based on a greater knowledge-base but the associate is not held accountable for the leadership they take on.
This posted is directed towards those promoted into management and how organizations can help newly promoted managers and leaders be successful from the beginning:
1. Begin to provide leadership opportunities before the promotion. This gives the candidate an opportunity to "try on" a leadership role and decide if it's for them while giving you the chance to see them in action. It also stretches them because taking on leadership without a title requires a unique skill set that will only serve them when they are promoted.
2. Don't assume that your newly promoted manager has the skills for his new role. Educate associates on what it means to be a manager and if possible, set-up advancement tracks that are not linked to management. Recognize that not everyone wants to be a manager and not everyone who wants to be a manager can do so.
3. Provide a leadership coach to newly promoted managers and new leaders in the organization. This gives them a "partner" from the beginning and provides objective feedback to support leadership growth by an expert in the field.
4. Assign a mentor at least two levels above the new leader. Why two levels? Leaders at the next level may feel threatened by up-and-coming talent.
5. Set-up quarterly personal development goals and assessments. New leaders need to know what's working and what isn't working (collaborating with a leadership coach can maximize this process). This also demonstrates that you care about their success beyond the numbers and models a process that they will adopt as they grow and promote others!
6. CRITICAL: Rinse and repeat with every promotion. These guidelines don't just apply to the first time manager. They also apply when a manager is promoted to senior manager, a senior manager to a director and on and on. Each new level brings its own new challenges and corporate leadership has a responsibility to provide the tools to offer its leaders the best opportunity to succeed. We all know that "hope is a bad business plan" and that applies to "hoping" new leaders succeed without giving them any tools to do so.
Continue to be great!