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Star players don’t always make the best coaches: How to promote the right people


It’s often said that people are a company’s most important asset. A strong team that understands your business is as important as the product or service you offer. But as your company grows are you promoting the right people?

In his book From Good to Great, author Jim Collins writes, "First get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats, and then they can figure out where to drive it."

While giving a promotion to a long-serving employee as a way to keep them or say thank you might seem like the right thing to do on a personal level, it might not be the right seat for them, personally, and it could be bad for business.

Company leaders and people managers need to be methodically put into their roles. In business, no matter the size, it is always best to make decisions based on your head, not on your heart — but that can be easier said than done.

Research has shown that 82 per cent of managers are miscast.

It turns out that only one in 10 people naturally possess the five key elements to being a good leader:

  • The ability to motivate.
  • To be assertive.
  • To be accountable.
  • To build relationships.
  • To make unbiased decisions, even if the result is negative for them but better for the majority.

With stats like this, what are business owners supposed to do when they need to fill the role of a retiring employee or need a manager?

Luckily, two in 10 people already possess some of these skills and can be further developed with the right guidance.

Here are some other things to keep in mind when looking to fill an upper-level role in your company.

3. Be open minded

Look at everyone in your shop and evaluate their skills, but also look at their potential and aspirations.

Be open minded in this process.

Your perfect candidate for the warehouse supervisor role or sales lead could be someone in a completely different department, or someone with less on-the-job experience but more advanced leadership skills.

2. Look for potential

High-performing employees get a lot of praise and may be the person you think of first when it is time to promote.

Remember this: Star players don’t always make the best coaches.

Top salespeople may not perform with the same gusto if they are put in a position to teach — and they may not have the interest.

1. Plan ahead

Define the critical skills that are needed to perform each job in your company, and predict which skills will be needed in the future. Then, once you know what you need, pinpoint the employees that have at least some of the skills and the desire to develop the rest.

This may mean creating or updating job descriptions so that you know how each job has changed from what it originally was, as often is the case in small businesses. But when you know your current needs and understand who can do what best, it will be easier to put the right people in the right positions in the future.

There is no doubt that promotion from within your company carries great benefits:

It costs less to promote than to recruit.

  • Promoted employees get up to speed faster than external hires.
  • You already know there is a cultural fit.
  • Can improve engagement and increase retention.

But make sure that it’s the right person for the job and the right person for the company overall.