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6 Factors to Consider Before Promoting From Within

Managing the development and performance of any organization has its difficulties. On the one hand, you may be consumed with tuning up people who no longer display an eagerness to excel in the role they occupy. On the other hand, you may be faced with turnover that continually leaves you at a talent deficit.

The old saying about having the right people in the right seats on the bus is more than just a quote from business guru, Jim Collins who authored the best seller- Good to Great. It’s a philosophy that puts heavy emphasis on identifying, selecting and developing people in every box on your organization chart to insure you’ve built your best possible business team.

The concept of hiring the right people can include many strategies. If you need to upgrade the performance of your organization and that means bringing talent in from the outside, this is a well-worn option. If you want to demonstrate that working for your company means getting opportunities to advance, promoting from within is a good way to go. If your business is running well and a foundational position becomes vacant, you have the choice of looking outside or looking for the best person inside. Whichever way you go, make sure you are choosing for the betterment of your business’ operating performance, not for expediency. Quick, impulsive hiring choices never end well under any circumstances!

Don’t Overlook Some Challenges Before Promoting from Within

One of the challenges of promoting from within is having to fill the spot of the person you promoted. The other is making sure the individual you are looking at has the skills and abilities for the position which is open. Business owners and executives frequently miscalculate this latter point as they decide to make their number one sales person the new sales manager. Or, as I was involved in recently, an IT company that promoted their best technician to the position of office operations manager.

Before you begin to think about promoting someone from a technical or hands on role to someone who (in a management role) will be challenged by completely different circumstances, it’s helpful to think about the areas that will impact your decision. After all, when a miss hire occurs at any level, the consequences on morale, performance and efforts to correct the problem are usually costly and overwhelming.

6 Characteristics to Consider Before Promoting from Within

Here are 6 areas to look at to insure the individual you are considering will be successful in the new role.

1. Does this person display Initiative?

Have they displayed any real or consistent initiative with their current responsibility? Are they prone to getting ahead of problems or asking for help before things turn ugly? Have they demonstrated any ability to handle bigger roles or volunteered to head up more complex projects? Have they spoken with you or their direct supervisor about what it takes to advance in your organization? Each of these scenarios provides clues about that individual’s desire to take on more and contribute at a higher level. Without this level of initiative, your insider may have difficulty acclimating to the demands of the new role.

2. Are they Resourceful?

Critical for management success is the ability to be resourceful. Having a keen sense of how to accomplish goals and get results without having ample support makes you a star in most organizations today. Has this individual demonstrated a capacity for finding ways to get things done when manpower is short, budgets are lean and the deadline was yesterday! Look for things like originality, unconventional approaches or simply thinking outside the company box. People who are resourceful don’t usually serve up lame excuses about why projects or initiatives didn’t get done.

3. Do they operate with Emotional Balance?

This is a big characteristic to consider. When you are working by yourself or on things that you are responsible for, emotional outbursts tend to be inwardly directed. At the very least, your displeasure with your own performance may be kept to a few people you work with or know well. When you are called upon to mediate a dispute between two of your employees or deal with one who decides to challenge your authority, how you respond is more important than what you say. People with itchy trigger fingers don’t’ tend to produce great results as team leaders or department managers.

4. Do they show Empathy?

This attribute is generally misunderstood. It’s not being soft or letting people get away with bad behavior, it’s having a keen understanding of what makes people tick. It’s recognizing that the way to get people motivated and focused on great performance is by understanding them as humans first. Someone who is empathetic will better relate to employees who have difficulty meeting expectations because they will be able to reach these folks in ways that inspire commitment and effort. If your candidate is too black and white or matter of fact with their people interaction, this could be a sign that their rapport building efforts with their new team could fall short.

5. Have they demonstrated any Organizational Discipline?

As an individual employee, you are mostly responsible for what you do. As a supervisor, manager or team leader, you are now accountable for the group’s performance. Having good time management, organization, planning and follow up capabilities is what this person will rely on until they get the hand of the new role they are in. Like a world class chess player, they must be 4-6 moves ahead of the group so they can impact direction and future outcome.

6. Do they possess Business Acumen?

Depending on the level of the promotion or the complexity of the department being managed, business acumen may or may not be a deal breaker. Ideally, your in-house candidate should possess some overall understanding of how the company operates. Why? Because many employees who lose focus and get sideways do so because they don’t understand the importance of their job as it relates to the success of the company. Someone with good business acumen will be able to educate the team on the linkage between what they do and the results of other departments.

The Best Way to Handle These Questions Before Promoting from Within

Now that you have some insight about the skill make up of your potential inside candidate, what must you be aware of to insure these areas are handled objectively?

For starters, think about any biases or preconceived notions you have about the individual you are considering. These biases can be negatively based or they can be from a sense of over confidence in the individual. This inability to see what’s real is called blind spots. Everyone has them but not everyone realizes it. Blind spots about candidates are a huge reason why many business owners make poor hiring decisions.

Secondarily, make sure you take the time to observe the individual directly in addition to getting opinions from others. Every time you ask another person to assess and recommend someone for a new role, you are getting that person’s capability for evaluating talent, whether or not they are good at it.

Finally, if the position being considered is recent or has not turned over in some time, look on the outside anyway. In my prior executive level positions with various consumer products manufacturers, I frequently was surprised at the level and availability of the current ‘market talent’. Even if your inside candidate more than meets your expectations, having a sense of what’s on the outside may cause you to reevaluate your own performance expectations. Better to do this before the individual moves into the new role than after.

Final Thought

I always prefer to promote from within as long as I am fully informed of the person’s desires, skills and ability to learn new responsibilities. Knowing this can only come from your own learning about your candidate’s true characteristics.

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