Many of us know this story…The star employee that’s great at what they do, gets promoted into a position that they were unsuited for, and, ultimately fails. Who’s to blame here? The organization needed them, and the employee stepped up. The employer has an opportunity for growth, and promoted internally. I say neither is to blame, but timing and intentional conversation about an employee’s long-term goals and development is the key to success.

I heard the term “battlefield promotion” once and thought, at the time, it is unrepresentative of the internal promotion, but looking back, it’s exactly the correct term. Many companies must identify someone quickly to lead a team or manage a high-level process. That’s not the best time to offer someone an opportunity if you haven’t already addressed it with them. Many employees have a deep and sense of responsibility to a company, and in no way want to let anyone down and feel it’s “the right thing to do”, so they accept. How can we, as leaders, do a better job at succession planning?

Goal Setting – having discussions with employees about their career goals is important. Do they want to manage a team, or move up as an individual contributor?

Promotional tracks – many large companies have well established promotional tracks with benchmarks for each level. Most small and medium companies do not though, but it’s something that can be developed, even on a small scale.

Development opportunities – investing in employees translates to investing in your organization. What does the employee naturally gravitate toward? Develop that skill and they’ll take off!

Mentorship – having a mentor, who is not the employee’s direct supervisor, is key. The employee can develop a trusting relationship with a leader, so they can learn and ultimately emulate what they see.

Change is inevitable, but with some thoughtful conversation and planning, you can be prepared for what’s coming your way

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