It's noble to promote from within, but irresponsible if it's without preparation. Here's what you should do.
I'm sure this is familiar. You have a great employee, who does strong work, and is ready for more responsibility. So you make him or her a supervisor, manager, or leader of others, and you're happy you did. "Congratulations, you're now a manager," you say, with all sincerity.
But then, you live to regret it. And you realize, it wasn't that the individual did something wrong. You're the one who forgot something: to help lay the foundation for that newly-crowned supervisor to succeed. You didn't train him or her to become a manager.
I remember a number of years ago when my team and I were looking for supervisors for Beryl's call center. Naturally, I thought, we found people who had been great at answering phones and handling customers, and so we promoted them into the new advisor positions. A couple of years later, when productivity was suffering, I heard a common refrain from senior leaders: the problem lay in the call-center supervisors. They thought I should get rid of the existing group, and start fresh.
While a new group sure sounded good, I knew that wasn't the answer. The supervisors weren't the problem; it was me. I failed to give those promoted employees the tools and training they needed to be successful. Rather than looking at them, I needed to look in the mirror, and so did the whole senior leadership team. So I challenged leadership to invest the necessary time and energy to give the call-center supervisors the training they needed--and we got great results.
It's noble to try to "promote from within," but irresponsible to promote without preparation. In some cases, you may not have the resources available to train your next leaders, and when that happens, it may of course be necessary to look outside. Or maybe you hire someone who can train your next generation of leaders.
If you're going to commit to advancing the careers of your best workers, and one of those opportunities moves them into a leadership position for the first time, always do the following:
- Give them a mentor for a period of time.
- Invest in either internal or external training.
- Guide them in how to be an example to others.
- Teach the difference between management and leadership.
- Check in often to help them with new issues they'll deal with.
- Make sure they enjoy the new role.
Remember middle managers or supervisors have tremendous influence, and you can't underestimate the importance of their roles. Equip and empower the employees you promote, and it will pay big dividends down the road.
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