Recently I had a conversation with a senior leader that went something like this:
SL: I don’t believe____ is suitable for the position he is in.
Me: Hmm.. tell me more
SL: He is not delivering on the goals. Shows up to the meetings with trivial excuses for why he can’t get things done.
Me: What else?
SL: I know _________ should never have promoted him to the Director’s role. He is not ready for this.
Me: Tell me more- what do you mean?
SL: Went on to tell me how another senior leader ( junior to her) promoted the person. When the request for promotion came across my client’s desk though she felt it was not the right direction to go, she went along with it. According to her all the processes were in place, too many people ( HR etc.) were involved-so she went along with the promotion.
Now she is considering demoting the newly promoted staff, which brings me to the topic of this post: Why great leaders hold themselves accountable… first. I challenged her.
My challenge was what motivated her to give the promotion her stamp of approval? I wanted my client to reflect back on her role in the ill-timed promotion. To recognize whether she stopped long enough to critically analyze the situation that transpired before endorsing the decision.
This important action of practising active reflection did not happen for the senior leader. Because of the busyness of work, the multiple demands and priorities she faces daily- she just went along with the decision and she told me- hoped it turned out alright. Well things are not going well for the newly promoted staff and this is causing a lot of headaches for the senior leader.
The majority of her headache could have been avoided had she followed some basic rules to promote an employee from a middle level to senior level position. Below are some points for consideration:
You the promoter are responsible first for the promotion.
Do your homework and ask yourself the following questions:
- Why do I believe ______ is ready to take on more responsibilities?
- Can _______ effectively manage all the responsibilities that come with the new role?
- What evidence do I have that _______ can effectively manage all the responsibilities that come with the new role?
- Am I making the decision to promote__________ because he/she does a great job in his/her current role?
- What evidence do I have that ____________ current great performance will transfer into a great performance in the new role?
- Does_____________ have both the managerial, technical and interpersonal skills the new position requires?
- What resources are in place to help___________ transition into the new role? Is there mentoring? coaching? training?
- Who else can I consult with regarding________’s consideration for promotion?
Once you answered the above questions as a way of holding yourself accountable first, you must have a similar conversation with the potential candidate as well as the candidate’s sponsor-separately.
The bottom line is this – neither the ill-promoted employee nor her sponsor will be held accountable to the board- in the case of my client- it is my client who is ultimately responsible. Therefore, it is critical that anyone in a position of leadership develop the habit of holding themselves accountable… first.
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