You have an open leadership slot, now you need to fill it. As you look at the possible candidates, you see options, but it can be difficult to decide who to pick. And your experience says that those selections can be tricky. Before you make that decision and invite your pick into your office for the announcement, ask yourself this – how do you decide who to promote into leadership?
This quandary exists for most any promotion, including at all leadership levels. But perhaps the most important, and riskiest, is selecting who to move from the ranks of individual contributor into their first leadership role. Not only are frontline leaders a pivotal role in your organization, the shift from being a teammate to leading the team is the toughest transition of anyone’s career.
This begs the question of your process and criteria for making these selections. If you have a process and a set of criteria that are working, congratulations! I hope you will share your insights in the comments below. If you struggle with this or have had mixed results, read on. Perhaps your next choice will be a bit clearer.
The Normal Process
You know this drill. We select the top accountant to be the accounting manager, the best worker to be the floor supervisor, and the best engineer to lead the engineering department. There is some logic to this idea, which is why people continue to do it. But the fallacies in the logic far exceed the positives. My purpose today is to help you get past this approach to something that will have better results.
What Are You Looking For?
When I ask this question, I often get blank stares or vague platitudes. If we aren’t exactly sure what we are looking for, how can we be sure we will get it? Or even know if we did? The most important way to think about who to promote into leadership is to know what you expect of a person successful in that role.
With the goal of creating crystal clear expectations, consider your answers to questions like these:
- What skills do you want leaders to have (now and in the future)?
- How can leaders best support our organizational objectives?
- What does our culture (or our aspirational culture) need in leaders?
- How do our values inform what we are looking for in our leaders?
- Do we have lists of leadership competencies? If so, are they up to date? And how do they help us set expectations for leaders?
How Can You See It?
It is much easier to look for the traits of your future leaders once you have identified what you are looking for. With the clear performance standards/expectations defined, you can look for examples, and indications that those skills exist or the potential for them is close at hand.
Be observant. Coach and encourage the skills and behaviors that you are looking to promote into leadership.
Building a Pipeline
Once you have clear expectations for success in the job, let your teams know what that looks like. Some people will self-exclude. Meaning, once the know what the role really is, they will decide that it isn’t for them. Others will be inspired by the list and begin their own development in those areas. It is even better if you begin to support people’s growth in those areas. Doing so forms a clear path to leadership and helps you develop leadership skills in more team members – which will offer benefits both now and far into the future.
Helping Them Succeed
While this goes beyond the scope of this article, I hope you don’t simply promote and then hope they succeed. After careful selection, make sure your expectations of them are clear. The advice above will ensure that those expectations will be clearer than they may have been in the past. Then, you must support their development with coaching and learning opportunities to help them prove you promoted the right person.
If you want your newest leaders to succeed once they are promoted, nothing will aid them more than our Bud to Boss Learning Experiences. Designed for new and front-line leaders to help them build the skills and confidence they need to succeed; they are available in a variety of learning approaches. Learn more about your options here.