2 Terrible Reasons to Promote Someone to Become a Manager

May 19th, 2015
Jacqueline Lee
Recruiting Teams

We’ve all promoted people into management positions and then asked ourselves later, “What were we thinking? How do we promote someone to become a manager and not regret it? Read on. In a lot of cases, those promotions happened for two really bad but all too common reasons:

1. It Was Their Turn

Have you ever promoted the person who’d been there the longest because, well, it just seemed like it should be their turn? Promoting that person seemed easier in the moment than looking for a new and better qualified candidate. Now, your chosen person is a manager, and they’re no more ready to be a manager than they were before you handed them the keys. When you talk to them, you know they still don’t get it. The title and the office didn’t magically make them ready to lead.

2. They Knew the Department

The department, the team, the project—your person knew how to do the work. If they did a great job completing the tasks, they should have no problem being in charge of the other people completing the tasks, right? Except when the time came that the job changed, and your chosen person couldn’t pivot and demonstrate true leadership. You realized that the person knew one department but didn’t have the managerial skills to move anywhere else...ever.

The Price You Pay

We all remember Gallup’s research from just a few years ago which told us that only 30 percent of workers felt engaged with their jobs. Gallup also estimated that managerial performance counts for 70 percent of that variance across business units, so they took a closer look at the state of the American manager. Their findings were eye-opening: Only 1 in 10 workers has a natural, innate aptitude for management. In other words, not everyone should get a turn, because most people don’t have the talent. Companies that choose talented managers end up doubling employee engagement, and they achieve 147 percent higher earnings per share than their competitors. Let’s put that another way: when you’re promoting people who don’t have management talent, you’re choosing to set your EPS at only 68 percent of what it could be. Gallup found that talented managers have five primary characteristics:

  • They build strong relationships. Talented people can build relationships that allow for honesty, transparency, and even open conflict.
  • They create cultures of real accountability. Talented managers celebrate achievements, but they don’t shirk the tough conversations.
  • They motivate people. Managers with talent have a compelling vision, and they know how to sell it.
  • They’re assertive. They have the drive—and the inner value system—to push through resistance and to make themselves heard in the crowd.
  • They’re decisive. Talented managers know when to decide and when to ask for input, and they don’t let office politics cloud their judgment.

The Good News

Gallup also predicts that for every 10 workers, one of which has strong managerial talent, two more have the potential to succeed as managers. When you invest in training and coaching tools, you’ll get real ROI by targeting these workers who have what Gallup calls “functional management talent.??? In other words, they have most of the qualities, but they might need some coaching in one area. Make a vow today—no more promoting someone because it’s their turn, and no more promoting someone just because they know the department better than other people. Identify people who have what it takes to lead, and start nurturing them before the position comes open.