"The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership." ~Harvey S. Firestone

"First-rate people hire first-rate people; second-rate people hire third-rate people." ~Leo Rosten

There is a huge amount of focus on hiring the right people in most organization, but an area that is just as important yet often gets little attention, is promoting. Time and time again leaders who may be great at hiring, marginalize their leadership by promoting the wrong people. In fact, promoting the wrong person can result in even worse repercussions than hiring the wrong person. The main reason?

Its effect on the team

Hiring the wrong person generally impacts a small part of the organization. You also have ways of recovering from it through extra training, flexibility in duties, or just hiring someone else if it comes to that. When you promote the wrong person into a leadership role, it has a far wider effect on the organization and can have disastrous effects. Nowhere is that more apparent than the effects it has on your team:

Insulting – Your best people generally want to move forward in their careers. They want the recognition, the development and the money that goes along with it as well. They have a lot invested in seeing that promotion from a practical and emotional perspective. When you promote an inferior candidate over them that emotion can easily take over and result in them being insulted. The feeling is that you do not recognize, appreciate or care about their efforts.

Lack of Trust – If they feel that you have made the wrong decision on something as important as selecting leaders, then how many other poor decisions have you made? This may put the first crack in the foundation of trust and as they take a closer look at past and present decisions from the emotional standpoint noted above more cracks are likely to be created (rightly or wrongly).

Productivity – With the demoralizing feeling of being insulted and the creation of a lack of trust it opens the door to sometimes dramatic productivity decreases. If they feel that their hard-work isn’t being recognized or rewarded, then they may wonder why they should bother to put forth the effort. Couple this with the fact that you now have an inferior leader in your department and you have the worst of both situations: a poor coach and poor players.

Turnover – The final and costliest result of poor promoting is when team members decide to leave because they feel they have better prospects elsewhere or they have lost faith in your leadership. This costs you in losing their expertise, shaking up the team dynamic, the time and money to hire a new person, and the time and effort to train the new person

The first key to stopping this is of course to promote the right people. Focusing on getting a clear understanding of the role you are promoting into, the skills required to be successful, and not bowing to outside pressure from people who aren’t as informed as you. The second, and most important thing, is to talk it through with each of the candidates who did not get the promotion. You may be lucky enough to have several great team members who would do well in the role, but you could only choose one. It’s important that they know what went into your decision and where they need to improve so that they get the next promotion. You don’t need to justify your decision; you simply want to be transparent with them so that they don’t mistakenly go down the road noted above.

So take your promotions just as seriously, if not more seriously, than your hiring decision. Their impact on your existing operation can be immense.

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