The Biggest Mistake You Can Make When Promoting Someone

Giving them too much responsibility?

Promoting the wrong person?

Being seen to have a favourite?

Nope – it’s none of the above.

It’s leaving them to their own devices.

Think Back to the Last External Hire You Made

It’s likely you either provided, or were provided with, an onboarding or induction programme, in some shape or form.

Now think back to the last internal promotion you awarded or received yourself.

Did you provide, or receive, an onboarding programme at all?

The answer I expect will widely be no. Rightly, or wrongly, as an internal employee, the assumption is made that you don’t need it like an external hire would do. As a leader, you may have made a similar assumption. Especially if the employee is highly competent in their existing job. The tendency may very well be to step back, and let them find their feet, rather than stepping in and being seen to be ‘micromanaging’.

Put Yourself in Their Shoes

Your intentions may be in the right place, but again, put yourself in your newly promoted employee’s shoes. What if they are overloaded, or are tentative about asking for support because they feel, by being promoted, they should ‘know’? Soon, you could have a vicious cycle of underperformance, through no lack of fundamental skill or personal capability, but lack of support.

What makes this worse is research. Michael Watkins points out in “Internal Hires Need Just as Much Support as External Ones” (HBR), that leaders making internal moves rated the difficulty of their internal transition an average of 70% as hard as joining a new company, and that 35% rated their recent internal moves to be more difficult than joining a company as a new hire.

Don’t Assume. Give Your Internal Hires the Same Support You Would External Hires

Setting both your external and internal hires up to succeed by developing tailored onboarding programmes is imperative. Ensure you fully understand the complexities involved in the transition the individual is making. Just because they’ve always achieved in their previous role, doesn’t mean they’ll be able to perform immediately in this role.

What’s more, the potential risk inherent in a normally high-performing employee ‘failing’ at a new role may not only cost you, it could have short and long-term performance repercussions for the employee – and may result in them leaving.

Develop an Onboarding, or Training, Programme That Bridges The ‘Gap’

Assess the transition from all perspectives – does the appointee have to manage two jobs during a transition, or do they have to relocate? (which may cause stress outside of the challenges of the role). Are they taking on new, previously unperformed responsibilities? (which may require training or some form of upskilling).

Outside of a formal induction and staged training or check in process, is there an informal mentor or coach you can provide the new appointment with, that may ease the transition?

Most importantly, be aware and be a support. Be the coach on the side-lines – not in the box.

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