Making Internal Promotions Stick

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Too often our internal promotions fail: we need more supervisors or managers, and therefore we promote someone from an area where they are really good (doing the work, or selling the work), to an area where they are much less skilled (managing the work).

There is a well-known phrase for this problem; it is called the Peter Principle (formulated by Laurence J. Peter and published in 1969). It states that we keep promoting someone until they reach their level of incompetency.

Failure is not a given—here are some ways to prepare for success when promoting an employee up the ranks.

After they are promoted put them in a learning environment with their new peers. If they are now a supervisor, give them other supervisors to talk to, trade war stories and share best practices.  Give them a mentor within your company who is a peer with more experience. Put them in meetings with other managers.

They may have been chummy with their worker friends (whom they now manage), and so now they now need a replacement group of chums.

They need systems to rely on, so they can execute their role without relying only on their personality.

– Having The Company Way (Do’s and Don’ts) clearly articulated and understood by all, so they are enforcing the company protocol and not inventing it.

– A system for regular performance reviews, the more frequent the better (up to quarterly.)

– A simple but clear system for verbal and written warnings.

Even with these systems, you can still fall into the Peter Principle trap. I saw us do that in my own company, taking our best salesperson and making him a below-average sales manager. Don’t make that mistake without ensuring that good sales management systems are in place, and the person you promote actually has the aptitudes needed to succeed in the new position.

Jeffrey’s Breakthrough Question. Do you have the systems already in place for the next internal promotion you plan on making?

Take Action: For your next internal promotion, make a list of the aptitudes and skills needed for that position, and key systems that should be in place. Then do a gap analysis and determine what systems need to be improved, and what training the newly promoted person would need to succeed.

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