Leadership Lessons Learned the Hard Way; Part III – Say no to a bad promotion!

There are times when a company that was poised for success and destined for glory, fizzles and fades into the background. The money was there, the concept was saleable, and customers were clamoring for their offering. But something went wrong. So what was it? The answer – the management team!

The fact that a leader can make or break an organization is well understood. However, companies continue to build less than stellar management teams, thereby inadvertantly driving their organizations to the ground.

Why?  One of the biggest causes for this in my experience has been that companies are too quick to promote employees to positions they do not yet have the skills for. Don’t get me wrong. I am all for giving people opportunities to advance in their careers. However, without the right mentoring or coaching, this is a disaster waiting to happen.  These employees will go on to set the direction and processes for their teams, which in turn can have a very bad effect on the rest of the organization.

Below are a few examples I have seen in the past of how talented people end up in positions they are not ready for-

  • A person does really well in their current position and their competence needs to be rewarded by elevating them to a higher position.
  • A person has been around at the company for a long time and their loyalty needs to be rewarded by promoting them.
  • A person threatens to quit and the organization cannot afford to lose him/her, so we’re going to bring him/her back by offering a promotion.
  • The current manager left the company and the organization is needing someone to fill his/her shoes, so let’s slot in X, Y or Z.

Unfortunately, none of the above speaks to the employee’s ability to be able to tackle new responsibilities a key management position might bring. In fact, such managers often turn around and make bad hiring decisions, and the problem continues to ripple through the organization. Even worse, other talented people leave the organization or company because they do not want to work with such a management team.

It is important to set your employees up for success, and the best way to do that is to set up an environment where they can learn/acquire/demonstrate the skills they need before they are promoted to a key management position. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.


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