I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked, “should I promote from within or hire externally?” And while I wish there was a quick way to answer this question, there simply isn’t.
When this conflicting decision arises, there are several factors I look at, and recommend my clients consider, to help decide and prepare accordingly.
For the most part, hiring from within is seen as a very positive practice. However, if you promote the wrong person, missing the right skills and attitude, you will have upheaval as a result.
Likewise, introducing an external hire into the team can bring forth new ideas, fresh thinking and objective perspective. But if the rationale for going external is not understood by the team, and people feel overlooked the person can be rejected pretty quickly–particularly in a tight knit group with an aversion to change.
Either way, hiring the wrong fit for the role or the team may lead to:
Taking time to consider the right type of people you need, who fit your environment, share the same values as the team and have the right skill set, is the key to determining whether to promote from within or hire externally.
To prevent bad feelings, it is very important to consider internal staff first in your selection process before going outside of the business.
To help you learn from other’s experience, I’ve highlighted some scenarios that underscore the pitfalls of in-house promotion vs. external hire.
Scenario #1 – Internal Hire
Meet Tony Saildude. Tony was a National Sales Director in an ever-changing, fast-paced company that was trying to acquire market share in a highly competitive industry. After his Sales Manager, Joyce Leadcraft left the company to stay at home with her 4 young children, Tony suddenly had an opening in their small business sales division.
Over several years, Joyce built the team from the ground up and was always there to ensure deals made it through in a timely manner. She continuously answered policy and process questions and effectively stickhandled internal conflict with both Marketing and Operations.
Acting quickly, Tony decided to select his best salesperson, Ron Sharp, for the role. Ron was well liked by the team and senior leadership, always upbeat, a great relationship builder and had been in his role for 4 years, frequently attaining the pinnacle of CEO Sales Club annually.
Ron was delighted with the promotion. He received a handsome increase, a parking spot and the coveted ‘inside office’. But shortly after he was promoted, the complaints began rolling up to Tony from the team.
Ron wasn’t available like Joyce had been and he didn’t take the time to solve internal issues. He usually took long lunches or breaks and frequently was seen socializing with people in Marketing. Ron was also bossy to the team, barking out deadlines and often raised his voice before closing himself in his office. And when they had internal issues with other groups, he would say things like “suck it up buttercup” leaving them frustrated and resentful.
Ron’s greatest strength had always been building rapport with customers, but in his new role, he was stuck in the office all day, forced to stick-handle a myriad of questions and expected to answer to Tony–it was not a good fit for Ron.
What Tony really needed was someone who could run interference internally, communicate clear direction, hold others accountable and also be readily available to resolve issues. These were skills and strengths Ron just did not have.
The Learning: Questions When Promoting Internally
Scenario #2 – External Hire
Meet Mary Newhere. Mary was the new Senior Vice President, Human Resources for a financial services company. The department was built on a foundation of promotions from within the company, so much so that many of the existing HR department did not have HR experience, which was why they hired Mary.
Seeing that the business was about to go through quite a bit of change, Mary wanted to hire a successor who could navigate the impending transformation, so she decided to hire externally. She hired Laura Right.
Laura had a 25+year HR career from different industries and was highly recommended through Mary’s network. Soon after she joined, Laura realized how tight the current team was and while they really liked her, she found that they rejected any new ideas or suggestions, even though Mary was always supportive.
Two months after Laura was hired, Mary was moved to another position and Laura’s new boss became Lester Oldschool–a financial services ‘lifer’ who navigated several departments over his 30 years and was a sceptic about new ideas that may impact the culture.
Laura’s peers adored Lester, complaining to him that Laura was hired too quickly and that none of them were even considered for the role. They weren’t happy that she wanted to make change to ‘tried and true’ practices.
It wasn’t long before Laura became discouraged and frustrated. She had no other sponsor or support once Mary left. Although her business clients thought she was refreshing, she was unable to affect change in HR and constantly faced a battle.
Laura left before her 2-year anniversary after being snapped up by another company.
The Learning: Questions When Hiring Externally
Trying to decide between promoting internally versus hiring externally can be a challenge. To avoid creating an unhappy environment, remember to consider your internal staff first, measuring them appropriately against the requirements of the role, before going outside of the business.
Hiring the right person and ensuring that they’re successful in their role requires careful consideration and planning. If you need assistance or guidance in this area, contact us to help you assess your environment and needs.
Dots Leadership Solutions also offer pre-screening or second interview support, custom recruitment frameworks and custom tool kits to assist leaders in making the right hiring decision.
Previously in this series, I covered the various phases of building a kick-ass team, including the ‘Start Up’ phase, ‘Building the Team Identity’ phase, ‘Bust Through the Barriers’ phase and ‘Kum Ba Yes’ phase. By now, if you’ve implemented all of my suggestions, you should be experiencing the ‘High Performance R Us’ phase – high five to you for graduating to a kick-ass leader!
What Does This Phase Look Like?
You’ll know the ‘High Performance R Us’ phase when you see your team consistently triumph and achieve goals together. For the most part, they get along, openly discuss ideas, problems and solutions, and most importantly, they share recommendations for improvement, actively solving issues together and demonstrating commitment to the group and company. Generally the climate is positive and activated for achievement. This kind of high performing team emits a positive vibe, and as such, they make the customer (internal or external) want to work with you.
So…now what? What do you do once you’ve successfully attained a high performing kick-ass team? Some say great teams eventually come to an end, but I like to think its more of a metamorphosis–just like a butterfly, your people undergo a change that gives each individual courage and esteem, which often means they will move along.
Kick Ass Leaders Shift Gears
At this point, some members of your team will either take on new roles within the team or move along, triggering a change to the whole dynamic. Similarly, this may also be a time when you prepare to make your own move, or you earn that well-deserved promotion!
Lets look at how you can either course correct to help your team through changes or how you can begin to wrap up so you are ready to make a move:
After the team dynamic changes or the team divides after having been together for a long time, you may notice a shift in peoples’ behaviours. Watch out for complacency, disengagement or repeated illnesses. Even the highest performing employees can become frustrated with changes–they are usually the first to exhibit fluctuations in behaviour.
Keep an eye on things like:
These are often symptoms of disengagement or complacency.
How to Respond
Wrapping Up With Your Team
If you’ve instead decided to make a move and depart from your now, high-functioning team, it’s imperative that you take right steps to leave them on great terms and in great shape. Parting ways can be difficult, but if you follow the wrap up checklist below, you’ll be sure to leave on a positive note.
Check In – take time to check in with the team to reflect–review the vision and mission you designed in Part 1 and 2 and have your team help you assess the progress. Record what worked and what could have been better, and identify how the team adapted to changing requirements over the duration. Determine what were the best parts of this team and which core competencies made the group most successful and why.
Check Off – take time to celebrate the journey of the team and reflect on the growth of each team member. Sit down with a coffee and make a list of how you’ve seen each of them grow as you look back over the time you spent together. Be sure to exchange written feedback so they can keep track of their progression and enjoy the fruits of their labour – this can be done using formal performance review tools, emails or, better yet, hand written notes. Thank everyone who helped the team succeed and encourage team members to write notes to support people from other areas in the business or to vendors/suppliers who were instrumental in the success. Send a summary to your boss or present the overview at a peer meeting to acknowledge progress of the team. And don’t forget to book a fun gathering too – coffee, ice cream, drinks or an outing together will allow you to clink glasses and leave on a high note.
Check On – if you haven’t done it already, be sure to communicate to your management and HR department who on your team has high potential and may be ready to take on leadership roles. Be sure to have a development plan laid out for those specific individuals, to ensure they work on acquiring the missing skills needed to make the leap to the next level. You can continue to be a mentor whether you continue to be their boss or not.
Check Out – one of the best things about having a high performing team is the ability to export some of your talented people to other areas of the organization. Reach out to various leaders you know in other areas of the business and connect them with team members who you feel would be valuable contributors. This is a great way to help your people shine and begin kicking off their own amazing team! You can bet they will come to you as they go through their own kick-ass team development.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey of kick-ass team building–no doubt, you’ve noticed some consistent themes. Becoming a Kick-Ass Leader takes a great deal of effort, a lot of communication, and the ability to know when to be tough, when to take the reigns or when to let your people soar. As always, I’m at your service if you’d like help in dealing with the various phases of building your team. Reach out any time.
Ever wonder how your company’s President or senior decision makers decide on who to promote? Well, I’m going to reveal it to you today.
...It doesn’t have anything to do with how many additional hours you put in.
...It has no relation to how many lunch breaks you skip.
...And your late night email response rate has absolutely no bearing on the decision.
It’s all about HOW you show up!
You see, senior leaders are listening carefully to those reporting to them and are observing who gets acknowledged most frequently – and yes, HR partners are also providing them with insights regarding HOW people situations have been dealt with. Senior Execs are always on the lookout for future leaders who can make a positive impact.
Of course the unique keys to being promotable may differ slightly from one organization to the next, but there are many elements that senior teams everywhere look at to determine who stands out above the rest.
So, how do you get noticed in a sea of people? Here are a few things you can do to demonstrate YOU are the one to watch:
1. The Buck Stops Here
Can you say accountability three times?!!! The promotion-worthy never shirk responsibility or pass the buck – they jump right out in front, even when they don’t own the root of the issue. If there is a problem, step up and demonstrate ownership. Executives want people they can always count on to resolve issues so they don’t have to.
2. Coach People to Execute
To be seen as a strong promotable resource you want to be able to show that you can help your people stretch to deliver. To do this you need to know your people well and understand their strengths. Give them courage to take on assignments that really play to their strengths and then set expectations for them to deliver results. A great book to raise your game on delivery is Larry Bossidy's Execution: Discipline of Getting Things Done.
3. It’s More Than Performance
Senior executives look for people who are socially dynamic, who can adapt appropriately to different social situations; they have strong capabilities in understanding and perceiving the emotions of others – they are not JUST a high performer! If you’re simply relying on your exceptional performance to get you that promotion, now’s the time to take things to the next level. Focus on cultivating and developing emotional aptitude to guide your thinking and behaviour and then practice managing or adjusting your emotions in the workplace, according to the situation.
To develop and hone your emotional quotient/emotional intelligence, you must focus on the ‘HOW’, not the ‘what’. Watch this video with Daniel Goldman explaining EQ to further develop your own knowledge of emotional intelligence!
4. Purposefully Take Initiative
Always be on the lookout for big hairy problems to take on – and then get tagged to be the one to find the solution! Presidents and senior leaders are just waiting to hear about the great people they have in their team who can put out the fires, stop the chatter of the troops and calm issues with stakeholders.
5. Deal With Tough Stuff
Reorganizations, performance issues, difficult stakeholders, angry staff, ticked off customers – these are the things that make everyone’s corporate life miserable. Most people shy away from conflict and acrimonious bitter disputes, but to stand out you’ll want to get really good at walking towards the nastiness to sort it out. When you are seen as someone who can be tossed the baton and make the pain go away, you are sure to be noticed by the senior team.
6. Lead In The ‘White Space’
On an organizational chart there are lines that join people – that is the hierarchy. Those with highest potential manage all the white space in between – they realize that processes cross boundaries and they ensure the processes they own flow smoothly through the organization. Here is an old article about process thinking - Managing the White Space. worthy of a look. People who lead in the white space are collaborative, curious to understand the impact of their teams work on all other stakeholders, and people who take ownership of their own processes – they activate others to work together. Top executives love to hear about people who calm the discord and noise in the system, turning the complicated into something simple.
7. Excel In The Grey
All companies, big and small, have some level of ambiguity. Those who can lead people through turbulent times and excel in spite of having all of the details are rock stars. Senior leaders gravitate to promoting those who don’t have to have all the answers before moving forward.
If you’re keen to be noticed and would value feedback and support from an outside source call us today. Dots Leadership Solutions offers customized offerings that can help you tap into your own potential and help guide you to that sought after role!
Elaine Adamson is a leadership consultant with Dots Leadership Solutions Inc. A natural dot connector. Passionate about coaching team effectiveness and leadership development she shares over 25+ years of real-life tips and tricks that really work!
Elaine believes you can discover and leverage strengths to forge a strong team dynamic despite business challenges or organizational change.