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Don’t Promote Someone Unless You’re Prepared to Do This 1 Thing (Even If They’re a Good Employee)

Companies have good intentions when they promote employees — but it can also set them up for failure.

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BY Shawn Doyle - 02 Nov 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

It happens across the world every day in businesses and organizations. Someone gets promoted, and there is lots of back-slapping, congratulating cheering and celebration. We have a new manager or supervisor. Yes!

No. Stop the presses. We have a huge issue, and I see it everywhere with many clients. The problem is we promote people from the front line to a management role and guess what? We assume they know how to lead and if they don't we are setting them up for massive failure.

Just because someone is a super salesperson does not mean they will be a good Sales Manager. Just because someone is excellent at I.T. doesn't mean they will be good at managing the I.T. department. Just because someone was a good worker doesn't mean they will be a good leader. The skills they had in the past are not the same skills they need for their new role. In fact, they are entirely different.

It's like saying a great player can be a great coach and we have seen many cases where that wasn't true.

What can you do about it? Here are some ideas that may help:

Create a leadership development program.

Start a program in your company to teach people how to be good leaders before they get promoted. Creating a program where people can learn to be leaders makes a ton of sense.

Leadership development helps build morale, build bench strength and develops employees for a potential future role. For this program, people can apply (if they have in interest in leading) or their managers can nominate them if they feel they have leadership potential.

A leadership development program also helps build a more diverse team of leaders because more people get a chance at a leadership role. The huge benefit is- that if a manager leaves suddenly then you won't have a problem, you will already have people developed to fill that slot.

Train current leaders.

If you have leaders, who have had very little training on how to lead, start training them now. These poor souls have been trying to do the best they can, and they want to succeed.

The truth is they will never admit they don't know how to lead. They will try to learn; they will read books, look at articles online, observe other leaders. They will try to emulate their old manager who maybe was not such a great leader.

Many companies have done their managers a disservice. They have thrown them into the water and said "swim."

Have a comprehensive leadership development process for every leader.

As a company, you should have leadership development for each level of leadership: future leaders (not yet leading), current supervisors, current managers, junior executives, executives, and all the people in the C suite. You need to have the training to help people learn to lead, but also to help them get to the next level of leadership.

Make leadership development a mandate. Make it an expectation and the responsibility of every leader to develop more leaders. Create incentives and reward leaders for developing leaders of the future.

As leadership expert Warren Bennis once said: "The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born -- that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That's nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born."