Are Your Employees Truly Ready for a Promotion?

One of your employees has put in long hours to try to impress you. They’ve been submitting reports days before the deadline, and they’ve been expressing their interest in a leadership position that recently opened.

You’ve seen their drive and commitment, so you say yes…only to turn around and fire them six months later for insubordination.

What went wrong?

Unfortunately, promoting your employees isn’t as simple of a process as it should be. Sometimes it can take months of training, and sometimes, they just aren’t cut out for the position in the first place. So if you’re looking to use promotions to reward your employees, and put together an all-star team at your company, here are a few things you need to keep in mind.

Past success does NOT equal future success.

Just because your employees thrive in their current position, doesn’t mean that they can carry that drive to a new role. While it can be an indicator of their willingness to learn, you can’t rely on their passion to keep that ball rolling.

The main reason behind this is that we don’t always vet our employees for their potential, we vet them for the job they signed up for. You wouldn’t judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, but if you’re looking for one that you can train to climb a tree in the future, you’d need to seek out a very talented fish.

Let your employees play to their strengths.

If you find that an individual goes above and beyond in their current role, odds are, they fit the role’s qualifications exceptionally well. But if you attempt to put them out of their comfort zone, they won’t always be able to excel further.

Let’s say that you’re the CEO of an electric company and you find that one of your technicians works harder than anyone else on your team. If you choose to promote them to a leadership position, it’s an entirely different story.

They might not have the communication skills to fit their new role, or maybe they have issues making decisions for the good of the company. So training them might seem like the next logical course of action. But…

Training can only help so much.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t expect him to manage your assets properly and scale your business in the most efficient way possible. Although, a horse has proven me wrong before.

If you believe that an individual has potential in a more leadership-based role, you can’t solely rely on training to get them ready. They might not be a viable candidate for that role in the first place. 

For example, if someone works well in a customer service role, and you’re looking to promote them to operations management, a few behaviors can get in the way. Maybe they tend to be condescending when the conversation gets out of their hands, or outright aggressive. You can attempt to train them to control their temper, but you can’t always stop human nature from taking the wheel.

So how can you tell if an individual will fit the bill before you waste your resources?

It all comes down to human behavior.

Pre-employment assessments are the key to predicting an individual’s behavior. While past performance and specialization can be good indicators, behavioral testing is the only reliable predictor of how someone might act in a given role.

If your employees are interested in a more comprehensive position, take a look at their behavioral results. While it may take research or professional results to accurately make a decision, you’ll save resources in the long run.

An individual might be more instinctive when it comes to decisions, which isn’t a great idea if their new role requires long-term planning. Or maybe they tend to be more introverted, which can be a pain if they need to run strategy meetings every Thursday.

Assessments can help take out the guesswork.

The easiest way to learn if your employee is ready for a promotion is to use a testing battery. When you understand how someone tends to behave, it’s much easier to predict their actions in the future. It’s not worth trying to shoehorn your employees into a role they can’t take on, so put in some work beforehand to make the decision simple.

Growth usually takes on one of two very distinct pathways: a linear path and an exponential one. The latter sounds great, right? Just pull a few levers and watch your organization reap the benefits of exponential growth, making all of your dreams come true. Wait till that next quarterly review, you’ll show them you mean business!

Except that isn’t the entire story, and consistent leadership development results are better than exponential growth that isn’t sustainable.

So why talk about exponential growth in the domain of creating better leaders in the workplace? Well, because it never hurts to have something to aspire to. It never hurts to see what can indeed happen when consistent action is scaled out. That’s the key to making leadership development a potent component in today’s fast paced business environment.

What does feedback really mean? We talk about feedback, but we know that not all feedback is created equal. Feedback should begin with empathy, which is truly understanding the other person's perspective. From there, we want to come forward with evidence that backs up the statements we're going to make to that person. Direct, professional, and straightforward is the name of the game here.

Feedback and accountability go hand in hand within the world of strategically assessing leadership strengths and weaknesses.

What Comprehensive Feedback Isn't

Sometimes it's important to highlight what something isn't before we can really start visualizing what it is constructively. If you want to build or even transform current feedback and accountability processes, here's what to avoid most:

  • Relying on one assessment. There is no perfect assessment, and it's critical to avoid idolizing any assessment as the One True Measure of performance

  • Keeping resources too narrow. This isn't about trying to use as few resources as possible. Pull out all of the tools and see what's reasonable in terms of the specific leader being refined for greater opportunities (the ultimate goal)

  • Don't settle for just covering strengths and weaknesses in terms of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Full insight requires full analysis; KPIs are just a shortcut.

Collecting quantitative data is important, but don’t skip the opportunities to collect qualitative data along the way as well. For example,

Breaking Down Strategic Leadership Assessment - The Best Path Forward for Growth

In order to get the growth needed to stay competitive, it's time to go back to the drawing board. What does strategic leadership assessment look like in action? Well, the important point is that it begins with realizing the end goal: you're getting insight into an individual's makeup and identifying what their true strengths and weaknesses are. We're going back to the 3D Leadership model as one of the key foundational points of this plan.

Staying the Course

Motivation is a big topic in the business world because we're used to watching people quit. Why do people quit before they've reached the finish line? Sometimes it's a matter of not being able to visualize the end. Or perhaps it's not having enough milestones to reflect upon as they move deeper into their journey. Not everyone will finish their leadership development plan, or approach it with enthusiasm.

Reassurance isn't a bad thing, and it can help bolster morale to the point where employees buy back in. For entry-level employees, leadership development can feel impossible because they're starting their journey with a lot to cover. For the more seasoned leader, development often takes a "been there, done that" feeling.

Dive Deeper Into Refinement With Developing World Class Leaders: The Ultimate Guide to Leadership Development

Digging into the roots of better leadership development isn’t an easy journey. Yet it is absolutely essential for companies of all sizes.

Did you miss the deep dive on assessments? Check out the Strategic View of Hiring podcast episode, Exploring the World of Assessments.

Check out the book store and order a copy of Developing World Class Leaders: The Ultimate Guide to Leadership Development today.

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