There will come a time when your company will need a new leader -- whether that be a C-suite position or a new department director -- and you have to decide who will take on that role. Will it be someone who is already within the company who already understands the culture or will it be an outside expert who can bring in fresh new ideas?

Back in college, I taught group fitness classes in our recreation department. I loved my job so much and I poured my heart and soul into every single class. So, when a position opened up to become a manager, I applied, thinking that this was my calling. Ultimately, I was surpassed by an outside senior and my little sophomore self was absolutely devastated.

The following semester, the senior was let go for missing shifts and I was brought it and boy, did I own it. I hired new instructors, brought in brand new formats, increased class attendance, and even began partnerships with brands like Gatorade and Clif Bar. I wanted our recreation department to be the best and I knew that given the chance, I would give it all I had.

Fortunately, Richard Branson is on the same page with this. In his latest interview with Stephen Dubner on the Freakonomics radio's, "Secret Life of CEOs" series, he details exactly why promoting from within is something he believes so strongly.

Hiring outside personnel will discourage your current team.

Branson explains it best in the interview:       

"We'd like to promote from within, because I think there's nothing more discouraging for, say, a thousand people who work in a company for a so-called expert to be brought in from outside. Generally, if you can't find a good C.E.O. within a thousand people in a company, there's something wrong in the first place."

It may be different if you're a small business, but the takeaway here is to look from within before committing to hiring otherwise. Make the job opportunity available to current employees and allow them time to interview and show their deep interest. Current employees should be the biggest advocates for your company and if you take away an opportunity that they've been working towards, they may start looking elsewhere to ensure growth.

Trust your team, even if they do things differently.

 Branson continues on to say:

"Obviously, they have got to be good at what they do. And then, you know, we let them get on with it. And we try not to second-guess them [...] We accept that some things they'll do differently than us. Some things they'll do better than us."

Especially when it comes to a higher up role, change is guaranteed. Trusting your instincts and ability to hire is crucial so if your newly promoted employee wants to change a few operational things around, let it happen. Find out where they are coming from and why that change makes sense, and then embrace it.

Don't assume that because they're in one role, they can't do anything else.

There are so many incredible stories about janitors who turn into the CEO of a company and even Branson has a story of a prisoner who comes to work five days a week and then checks back into jail on the weekends.

The moral of the story is that everyone has their own aspirations and they may not be working in a role that plays to their strength, so as the leader of your company, it's your job to try and create a space where they can step into their best role. It's a win-win situation that Branson believes feeds back into the company:

"You mustn't always put people in boxes based on their job. You've got to think that people are often capable of far more than meets the eye. And if you promote people above what they'd expect, they will give everything back."

As with anything, you get what you put in. Invest in your people and the return will be exponential.

Published on: Mar 28, 2018