By Neville Chamunorwa

There is a marked difference of opinion between various recruitment personnel when it comes to filling management vacancies. Is it best to promote from within or look outside the company to fill the position? Before you advertise the role externally, it is well worth your time to ensure you consider existing members of your organization. In addition to having first hand knowledge of your culture and workplace policies promoting from within will reduce onboarding times, save money and reignite employee engagement.

But how do you know if you’re promoting the right employee? What traits facilitate a promotion? You might understandably assume that long-serving employees or workers who are great in their current role are ideal candidates to consider for promotion. However, longevity and high productivity aren’t good enough reasons to justify handing someone a promotion.

The Importance of the Peter Principle

The Peter Principle refers to the propensity for most organizations to continuously promote employees until they reach a level of respective incompetence. For example, your top customer service representative could be promoted to fill your Customer Acquisition Manager vacancy – a role they simply aren’t qualified to carry out. They might be great at nurturing existing relationships but awful at establishing and developing new ones. As a result, both the company and employee would be best suited if that worker hadn’t been granted this specific promotion.

In such cases, competent employees will continue to receive promotions until they reach their ceiling of competence. They may not intrinsically possess the crucial traits needed to succeed in a higher position. This means, their ability to perform on the job plateaus and they settle in a position they are not equipped to excel in. It not only affects their performance but all the people under their chain of command as well. The Peter Principle thus highlights that sometimes an employee is simply the wrong piece for that part of the puzzle.

The Traits That Should Determine Qualification For Promotion

Certain personality traits are key to overcoming the Peter Principle. Strong, naturally prevailing qualities demonstrate compatibility for some roles, as well as incompatibility for others. Identify the following key assets for an individual to thrive in a position of leadership. They should be the driving force when considering the best candidates for promotion.

1. Adaptable to a Change

Adaptability is endlessly vital in the workplace. An employee who possesses the following qualities is someone worth considering for promotion.

  • Ideas/ Work – Can accept the prevailing opinion and amends the respective work without bitterness.
  • Mistakes – Understands that mistakes happen, and utilizes them as a tool to learn from.
  • Collaboration – Can work alongside new people with enthusiasm and open-mindedness.
  • Goals – Adapts work to accommodate goals, understanding that requirements change.

In a workplace environment, it is essential to acknowledge that change is both natural and inevitable. Goals change. Employees change. Demand changes. Responding positively to these changes demonstrates a level of maturity and points to someone who is willing to exceed their boundaries and what is expected of them.

2. Takes Positive & Negative Critique in Their Stride

It’s easy to welcome positive feedback. The way an employee responds to unflattering critique, however, will say volumes about their character. In the face of criticism or redirection, this type of employee will often respond in certain ways:

  • They will ask where they can improve and be open to suggestions on how this can be achieved.
  • They will seek clarity on future deliverables and expectations for the job moving forward.
  • They will be able to calmly present their case – pointing to facts only – should they disagree with any feedback.

Workers who can take the good and the bad in their stride typically make for better leaders. They are able to compartmentalize and prioritize self-improvement. When they are asked to go in a different direction, they view it as an opportunity to reinvent themselves and continue to grow. Such an outlook will ultimately be evident in the results they produce.

3. Communicates Effectively At Every Level

Effective communication is a prerequisite of good leadership since employees will naturally look to their superiors for direction. Some characteristics that great communicators possess include:

  • Open-mindedness – Shows a willingness to consider different ideas and explore new avenues.
  • Patience – The ability to remain calm even in adverse conditions.
  • Getting buy-in from the entire team – Can influence different personalities to hone in on the common goal. This takes good judgment, compromise, delegation and the ability to reprimand where necessary without making it personal.

The ideal manager will be able to communicate the organization’s vision clearly to the rest of the team. They will lay out the steps that others must follow to reach key milestones. As a result, there’ll be less uncertainty and better performance.

4. Adopts a Holistic Perspective

Viewing the company on a holistic level is a great indicator of someone who is mentally prepared for the next step. If you have an employee with the following qualities, they may well be promotion material.

  • Sees the bigger picture (how their work and actions will influence others).
  • Champions interpersonal communication.
  • Is self-empowered and can nurture others to adopt a similar approach.
  • Demonstrates flexibility, while bringing efficiency and effectiveness to the workplace.

An individual who takes into consideration the autonomy of the entire organization is someone who can handle a more advanced role.

5. Inspires The Troops

Real progress occurs when employees are inspired, not just engaged. Richard Branson has previously identified inspiration as the one skill leaders need to learn. This is because inspired workers elevate their level of performance, which in turn, uplifts the others around them as well. The same employees who go above and beyond in their job every day are the same ones who are likely to successfully recalibrate existing behaviors, thus helping others break out of culture-weakening practices.

Next Time You’re Promoting

The next time you need to fill a management vacancy be sure to look beyond the surface of misleading personality traits. This entails being mindful of the Peter Principle pitfalls. Pay close attention to your employee’s level of adaptability, communication style, how they handle adversity, and whether they’re able to adopt a holistic perspective and rally the troops.

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