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Ian Cowley

Managing Director

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How to avoid promoting the wrong person


When one of your team is consistently getting excellent results and standing head and shoulders above their colleagues, the natural reaction is to promote them.

Moving a shining star to a higher position is a justified reward for their hard work. Furthermore it should be beneficial to the business, as talent accepts more responsibility and delivers greater success. 

However promotion should be a considered process. It’s all too easy to move the right person into the wrong role. Or it may be the person is promoted isn’t quite ready for the responsibility you’re offering.

To ensure you’re giving your talent a golden handshake rather than a poisoned chalice, here are some things to remember.

Play to everyone’s strengths

Consider the strengths and weakness of the person you’re looking to promote, their experience to date and their interest and ambition.

Do these match up to the role you are offering? For example, there is no point suggesting a managerial role, if your candidate is a lone wolf who prefers to work alone. As they already lack the innate people skills essential for motivating a team.

Be informed by your own data

From the moment you employ someone, you should have conducted regular reviews to monitor development. Which means, you will have built a picture of their strengths and weaknesses over their career with you. Refer back to these notes. These will help inform whether they are suited for the promoted role you have in mind.

Promotion or just a pay rise?

It’s worth remembering that promotion does not necessarily have to mean a new role. A pay rise could be the recognition they need. So if they are not ready for increased responsibility, you can still reward and ear mark them for promotion as they mature.

Set clear goals

If, after assessing all the above, a promoted role is the best next step, create a clear job specification with clear targets, responsibilities and a defined personal development plan.

Talk this through with your employee so they know exactly what you need them to deliver. Help them let go of aspects of their old job which they no longer have time to help with, and ensure they’re focused on the ultimate objective of their new job.

Evaluate this at regular intervals and be honest and transparent with your feedback. If you’re disappointed, say. Afterall, how can people learn?

Lend a helping hand

Aid the successful transition of your shining star by being on hand to support and advise, particularly in the early days.

Not everyone takes to a new job like a duck to water, and it’s in those first days and weeks that any wobbles might lead to them quitting or performing below their best.

Anticipate this by staying close to them, giving frequent feedback and praise for the things they’re doing right. Hold reviews regularly over the first few months, providing direction that will help the transition.

You may want to treat the promotion like a new job and give it a probationary period, at the end of which you can evaluate its success. If you’ve put the right person in the right role, then you can make it permanent. However, having a clear timeline in place gives both parties time to trial and test a promotion without causing long-term damage to the business.

By Ian Cowley, managing director,

Author Profile Picture
Ian Cowley

Managing Director

Read more from Ian Cowley

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