Who Gets the Promotion?

Are you promoting the right people to drive success in your company? Will they bring the greatest treasure in with them everyday as they work with your greatest resource, your people?


Employees come to work to show their best efforts and this often leads to an aspiration to higher levels. Those who have proven their grit often attain this achievement. Considering the drive behind that grit can help to make better selections and produce great leaders. When selections are made based on a portion of the needs of the role, danger can be on the horizon. Considering the reason the interviewer makes the selection is also important. Done right, this can ensure the right person is leading your most valuable resource, your people.

Shining in an interview is a skill that can be mastered. Transitioning that to the role is a different story.

Employees want to move up


Promotions are not only for more money or responsibility, they reward deserving employees and help build the organization to what it can ultimately become. When an employee is performing well and knows the job, a promotion can help move them to a place where they can help others. This provides an opportunity to continue contributing to an environment where others can achieve the same positivity in the workplace. Unfortunately, it works the other way as well. Some who experienced negativity, take it with them. This contributes to continued workplace disengagement.


A decision to take on a new responsibility should be made wisely. Even if an employee is happy in their position and doing a great job, a promotion could produce exactly the opposite as the new role comes with new, dare I say it, people. Relationships in the workplace provide solidarity and help employees feel connected. As well, some see their leaders challenges and say, “Nah. I’ll just stay where I am.”


Are only the best promoted?


There are times when promotions are presented to those who are skilled at achieving the productivity needed to ensure service or performance meets acquired levels. After all, it is a business and having someone who knows how to get the numbers is important. This may be seen as an indication that this person will make the company successful. When the only focus of the promotion is choosing someone who can get the numbers, trouble is down the road, and not very far.


Issues such as a leader who is negative, condescending, rude, uncaring, or disconnected from the workforce can prevent the continuous high levels of performance sought. Because one actually gets the numbers does not mean they get them in a way that is sustainable. Short term success leaders can flow through the company and continually rise. The people in the ranks are the true performers. When they have to perform for someone who it appears doesn’t care about their opinions or wellbeing, their work habits begin to change. There are at least two ways of getting performance, work with your employees in an engaging way, or beat it out of them. Both work. The latter will ensure low productivity, turnover, and attendance are a problem. Wellbeing suffers in this environment.


Stress in the workplace is considered one of the leading causes of chronic illness in the United States. Helping others to find their place and ultimate greatness in the workplace helps to promote engagement which creates greater opportunities for creativity, production, safe working environments, higher retail returns, and lower absenteeism. Engaged employees come to work and thrive, give the organization a better opportunity to compete and provide excellent service to customers.


So, who gets the promotion?


When deciding who gets the promotion, the process is simple. Depending on the position, there may be an application process and ultimately an interview. When the interview and written words are all that are used, it is likely the person hired is exactly who they wanted you to think they are. You’ve been duped. And it often happens the person portrayed is not the person hired. No offense to them, they really wanted the job and that is what matters most to them. Is that the best process? Probably not.


Other times, the promotion goes to someone who has shown true dedication to the person making the decision, despite inability or knowledge of the position to which they’ve acquired. When this happens, the employees looking in immediately experience dissonance. When they don’t, it is because they expected this to happen, you have done it before, and this affect can be much worse. The trust has been broken so long, it is a testament to who they believe the leader to be, and loyalty continues to diminish. Your new promoted employee inherits this making it even more of a challenge.


Consider a leader who has left a trail of bullying cases in his past. Yet he continues to get promoted. What is the message, not only to those whom he bullied, but to this leader? To the leader, the message is that the behavior will not prevent him from rising in the organization. So he continues to do it, even if you say, “Stop it.” The message to others is that they don’t matter, and the company doesn’t care about them. His ability to achieve success and numbers is not to be confused with the impacts of his behavior on others. Behavior must be considered a part of who he is when leading others.


I still don’t know who should get the promotion?


Often asked is the question, “How did she get that promotion?” A challenge for each of us is to ask, “Who is saying that about me?” When you know how wonderful you are, likely, you are the one who knows it. When you have to sing your praises, it may be because no one else does. Learning to focus on the people who can help create greatness in your team makes for a better song. They probably sing better than you do anyway. The person you want to start with is the one in the mirror. Consider whether you are willing to make a decision that is short-sighted. This person may be able to produce performance, but unable to perform in your environment. A better option may be the person who can help you to improve your environment since it is the people working there who are the performers. Through great leadership, employees know what is expected of them and with a few additional insights, they perform with little to no oversight. They reach a flow. Are you willing to help your selection reach the level they need for success? By working with you, you can better work with others.


Here are some things to ask yourself:

  • Can I be transparent and humble with my team? Do I practice vulnerability or do I have a wall? Am I willing to say I am sorry when a conversation goes wrong since I am the leader?

  • Will my biases interfere with workplace relationships? What help do I need to work through my biases? (Accept it, you have them. All people do.)

  • Do I trust those who work with me? If not, am I working with them to build trust?

  • Am I willing to provide the needs of the person I promote? (Really. Decide.)


Note: If you cannot answer positively to these, consider why anyone would want to work for you? Your answer is likely the place to start for reflection and growth. When YOU know how good you are, validate it. Ask your team members. After they tell you what you want to hear, ask again (and keep asking), pull up your boot straps, and prepare for truth. If you are not willing to be uncomfortable in taking a risk to improve yourself, other risks are taken on the backs of those around you, not yourself. All have room for growth.


Here are some ideas to pursue when learning about your potential promotion candidate:

  • How well does the person interact with others? Ask them and then ask the team they worked with. Consider diversity when asking. Ask everyone.

  • What efforts have they put forth to help members of their team excel? Validate.

  • How many times do they use the word “I” when “we” is not used in the same sentence?

  • Would members of their team be sorry to see them go if promoted? Why?

Ask these questions and watch for squirming in the chair or true excitement in response:

  • Have you asked your team how you can be a better leader? How did they respond? Did you agree?

  • What is vulnerability in the workplace? How can you leverage it in relationships?

  • When in a leadership role, it is the people who work for you who create the level of productivity that comes from your work unit. Why do they perform well?

  • What are the lasting impressions you leave on those who look to you as a leader? (Assuming someone has told you the impact you have on their growth.)

  • What is an example of how your leadership may have gone wrong on a team? What about when it went really well?

  • Would any of your team want your job? Why or why not? Is there anyone on your team you would NOT consider at all? What did you do to develop them?


Focusing on traditional performance based interview questions means the candidate responds to what to do, yet it provides no way of knowing whether they can lead a team to make it happen. And if they have a track record of broken trust, why put others through this same treatment. Remember, you are promoting someone who will help to improve your team. Are you willing to do it regardless of how that person behaves in the workplace?


Having engaging ways of communicating with employees does not negate the need to make business happen. It is through this engaging relationship that business happens in a way that is sustainable, providing lasting benefits and yielding a workplace that thrives. Performance is what matters. That is, if you only want to make numbers, create stress, health concerns, and safety issues. Most businesses are not service businesses, but people providing a service business. Performance is achieved through the sweat and dedication of a determined and proud workforce. The idea that performance matters means you see that it is the employees who create the performance. Having a highly valued workforce that knows both their value in the workplace and believe their involvement is what helps to keep the business alive is what matters. Promote that leader.

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