Wednesday, 27 September 2017


Strategically speaking, one of your most important tasks is that of identifying and promoting individuals.  In the extreme it is called succession planning but it can be as routine as filling a supervisory position.  In determining the  best candidate to fill the role, what are you looking at?

Some leaders look at the body of work that an individual has accomplished during the time in their current role and make a decision based on that evidence.  When promoting for a lower level position in which the individual may have a very ‘hands-on’ approach, this method of evaluation may be sufficient.  The past will have an important imprint on results so why take a risk on someone with less knowledge.

Other leaders look at the present.  Who among different candidates is respected by their co-workers and would be able to continue to motivate them despite the sometimes awkward situation that arises when one becomes the ‘boss’ of former associates?  Many times the most popular person is selected from the group so that the team feels a sense of continuity.  It also serves to confirm that promotions from within are still policy.

In both of these situations the decision is pretty safe.  And if that is a reflection of your character, these approaches are likely the ones that sit well with you.  But I want to offer a contrarian thought.

Why not look to the future the next time you need to promote?  To truly differentiate your company from the rest of the field may mean that you need to take some risks.  The ‘same ole, same ole’ may be fine in the short term but it will be a hindrance in the long term.

Look at the potential that candidates offer.  Who will not be satisfied with the status quo?  Who will stretch others outside of their comfort zone to find new and better ways to accomplish tasks?  Who has a vision for what might be possible if only you were able to cast off the shackles of the past and present?

Clearly you introduce more risk choosing this option.  But decisions always present a risk/reward proposition.  If you are truly leading and not simply managing then looking to the future is imperative.  And if you cannot stomach the prospects of risk then the deeper question is ‘…are you the right candidate for the leadership position that you hold…’

In today’s increasingly competitive world you must strive to survive.  The status quo means that you are losing ground.  Looking to the past seldom moves the needle forward so look to the future, take some risk and lead.