When I hear something along the lines of "I have decided to promote Linda to our executive team. She has been with us for over two years and I feel it is time" from a business owner, I immediately follow up with a series of questions.
Mainly, it's to find out if they have thought through the promotion and what it would look like for their team as a whole and for the team member up for the promotion. Because, over the past 20 years I have seen many leaders jump to making this decision and struggle with the consequences of that decision when it turns out to be a bad fit.
And, ultimately, it often ends up with Linda being let go.
That said, I want to share with you the five criteria that I look at before promoting anyone to my leadership team. If they possess these skills, or show promise and growth in these areas, then we move forward. But if I find that one or a few of these criteria are missing, I will hold off on inviting them to our executive huddles.
1. Delegation and Accountability
How does the team member hand off responsibilities and see that they get done? Linda might be an excellent worker and have great follow-through when it comes to her own to-do list. But if you give her an assistant, or a whole department to oversee, the story might be very different.
A good leader knows how to focus their attention on the things that matter most, and is able to delegate and hand off responsibilities cleanly to those on their team. They should be able to hold their teammates accountable and understand the importance of closing the loop on projects and timelines.
If you are unsure of how they work in such a situation, try giving them a multi-department project to oversee or a new assistant and see how they handle things.
2. Strategic Planning and Decision Making
How are they at reading the world and allocating your resources to accomplish your defined objectives? In an ideal world, we would all have unlimited time and resources to get our tasks completed. But that just isn't realistic.
A good candidate for your exec team understands these limitations and will help those on her team prioritize tasks and resources to help your business grow. Missed deadlines and going over budget often can be red flags to hold off on a promotion.
3. HR Compliance
How are they at understanding the legalities of managing employees and mitigating risks? Your executive team helps shape your company culture, and part of that culture has to do with the way that people are managed.
Do they treat other employees with respect? Do they behave themselves in a professional manner? Or do they have a history of employee issues and internal conflicts? Once someone is promoted to your exec team, it is imperative that they understand the legalities and risks that come along with managing a team.
4. Recruiting, Onboarding, and Training
Do they have experience assembling the right team and retaining that team over time? A good leader has experience with finding and securing talent for your company, and giving them the tools and training necessary to do their job well.
Depending on the person, this might be an area that they don't have a lot of experience in and will rely on you for training and guidance. Teaching them the gold standard of hiring and having good onboarding UBSs will go a long way here, and over time they will become comfortable with hiring and onboarding.
5. Process Optimization and Strategic Depth
Do they understand the systemization and refinement of internal systems to get great work done? The last thing that I look at when promoting a team member to our exec team has to do with our systems and controls.
Our systems and controls are a fundamental reason that we are able to scale and grow our business, and something that we teach our business coaching clients how to develop as well. So, it is imperative that our team leaders understand how to create and use these processes with their staff. They should not only know how to find them and how to use them properly, but they should make it a standard practice to refine them often to streamline and build on what we already have.
Now, in the case of Linda, she may very well be ready to join the executive team. But until you really sit down and look at her leadership skills and where she needs more development, you run the risk of making a bad decision and promoting her before she is really ready.