“Come work for our company!! Great advancement potential! Be a manager in 2 years!!” Does this language sound familiar? Sure it does. It’s probably part of at least half of all job postings out there right now. We love to dangle carrots, and this one is the macdaddy of carrots: promotion opportunities. I’m not saying that we can’t or shouldn’t market advancement potential as a company benefit, but I do have a problem with with the practice of making management an expected path for high performers. I’ve seen it happen too many times, and it doesn’t have the greatest success rate.
Been There, Done That
When I joined my current company, we had numerous managers who were struggling with what we were expecting of them. As we looked back at their professional path within our organization, we found that they were folks who were performing very well in their then-current role. And when a manager slot came open, we looked at who we had available, and selected them as they were the senior person or the best performer. It was the peter principle in action. And what happened when they became managers? Take a guess…
Fortunately, we were proactive enough to recognize the flaw in our model, and made some adjustments in how we hired for supervisory and management positions. And for the people who were already managers, but were clearly not cut out for it, we were open and honest with them and we offered them team member positions within our company. That way we could keep our good people, but open up the management slots for the people who should actually be filling them.
Leadership is a Privilege
But this brings me back around to the concept of promotion as a reward. Too often, companies get sucked into this trap. They have a high performer who wants to do more. They’re worried they person may leave and go to the competition. So what do they do? They promote them. I recently introduced the Simplify Leadership model over at my personal blog Working Title HR, and one of the statements I made there is this: Leadership is a privilege, not a reward. And as a company, we have a responsibility to ensure that we are bestowing that privilege on the right people. Failure to do that often has rather negative consequences to the new manager, but also to the other employees in the department who deserve a strong manager. Read more here…