Who Should Get Promoted?

Due to the recession, employee promotions have been few and far between for most organizations. But as things begin to turn, promotions will likely start making a comeback. And now is the time to be thinking about your company/division/department promotion strategy.

Nothing communicates more quickly what an organization truly values than the decision on who gets promoted.

While all promotion decisions are important, the first promotion to a position of leadership is arguably the most important. The frontline supervisor has more power regarding the day-to-day customer experience than most executives do. And, as Gallup research clearly shows, an employee’s immediate supervisor plays a vital role in the level of that employee’s engagement on the job – “The talented employee may join a company because of its charismatic leaders, its generous benefits, and its world-class training programs, but how long that employee stays and how productive he is while he is there is determined by his relationship with his immediate supervisor.” (First, Break All the Rules, by Marcus Buckingham).

As you look at individuals for possible promotions, what criteria are you looking for? We know that just because someone is an excellent salesperson or technician, for example, doesn’t mean that he or she will make an effective leader. I do, however, believe that excellence in an employee’s current position is at least an indicator of potential excellence as a leader. But it’s only one indicator, and unfortunately is often the only indicator considered.

Here is a list of ten questions to keep in mind as you consider various employees for promotion. I’m sure you can come up with others, but these questions should be part of the mix. As you think about individual employees you’re considering for a leadership position, first give your gut yes or no response to the question. Then consider your answer further and provide a rating of 1-5; 1 being along the lines of disagree, never, etc; and 5 being completely agree, always, etc.

1. Is the person a problem solver rather than a problem dumper?

While pointing out problems or issues is okay, most companies need leaders who are prepared to solve those problems, not just whine about them.

2. Does the person volunteer for additional responsibility?

Steady performers who do what they’re paid to do and then go home are valued employees. If they’re to be leaders, however, they need to be willing to stretch and do things that might be out of their comfort zones.

3. Is the person passionate about their work?

If this employee becomes a leader, he or she is going to be a key factor in the engagement of direct reports. If the passion isn’t there now, it’s not likely to be there in a leadership position.

4. Is the person focused on continuous learning?

Complacency is a job-killer. Someone taking advantage of educational opportunities within the organization as well as from outside resources indicates a willingness to learn and also demonstrates that they don’t see the time clock as the driver of their career.

5. Does the person forge strong relationships with other departments and entities?

The higher a person moves in the organization, the more their success depends on the cooperation of others. Someone who builds strong relationships with other departments and shows a willingness to set other entities up for success is demonstrating a key leadership attribute.

6. Does the person treat others with dignity and respect?

Most people either treat others with dignity and respect or they don’t, regardless of their position. If the person you’re considering for promotion doesn’t treat others well now, you can be sure that this behavior will be magnified in a leadership position.

7. Does the person perform effectively under stress?

A leader’s employees take their cue from the leader. A leader who is always stressed out creates a team that is always stressed out. Someone who operates effectively even under times of extreme stress is demonstrating an ability to navigate through rough waters.

8. Does the person model the values of the organization?

If someone watched a video of this employee in action, would they see the organization’s values in action?

9. When the person screws up (and everyone does) does he or she accept responsibility?

Finger pointing and playing the blame game are poisonous in organizations. Our culture is more and more becoming one of not accepting responsibility. Those who are willing to accept responsibility for the mistakes they make and do what it takes to make things right, are likely to do the same with their department, division, company.

10. Does the person share the glory when there is glory to be had?

Few things are more demotivating to a group than a leader who claims sole credit for any success. A leader can’t be successful unless his or her team is successful. An employee who demonstrates gratitude early in his career is likely to demonstrate gratitude as a leader.

As I said earlier, I’m sure you can expand this list with your own benchmarks. But I find these items to be highly indicative of future success as a leader. It’s never too early to start looking for promotable employees, and I hope these questions help you in your decision.

Question to consider: Based on the criteria outlined in this article, what individuals on your team would be effective leaders?

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