Every boss uses different criteria to decide which employee to promote. Maybe you focus on qualifications and experience. Maybe you focus on hard skills and soft skills. Maybe you focus on work ethic, leadership ability, and cultural fit.
In all likelihood, you weigh all of the above.
But there's another way to look at choosing the best person:
When you're choosing whom to promote, select the person who most wants the job--not the position.
Why? Years ago, I needed to fill an opening for a shipping supervisor. One candidate was clearly better than the rest: He had worked in the department for more than a decade and had great skills. He possessed a broad range of shipping and distribution experience, he was an outstanding trainer of new employees--he seemed perfect.
(I also have to admit I was glad he was the best candidate since it helped send the message that, even though the company had just changed hands and I had recently been hired, I valued the experience of current employees and wasn't just going to bring in "my guys.")
"Win-win," I thought, and promoted him.
I was wrong.
It turned out he wanted the job because he was tired of sitting on a forklift and wanted to sit in a chair. He was tired of taking his breaks and lunches on a schedule and wanted to set his own schedule. He was tired of taking directions and wanted to be the one who gave directions. He was tired of punching a clock and wanted to come and go as he pleased.
In short, he didn't want the job. He didn't want to motivate, inspire, lead, manage, discipline, improve, optimize, develop--all the things that come with doing a leader's job.
Instead, he wanted what he saw as the perks of the position. He felt he had already paid his dues, even though dues get paid each and every day, and the only real measure of a person's value is the tangible contribution he or she makes on a daily basis.
And that sucked, because I didn't need a Shipping Supervisor. "Shipping Supervisor" is just a job title. What I needed was a guy or gal who loved getting product out the door. I needed a person who wanted to be in charge because he or she wanted to have greater impact on how quickly and accurately we got product out the door.
I didn't need a person obsessed with a title. I needed a person obsessed with creating an outcome, day in and day out.
It sounds obvious, but in my case it was only obvious in hindsight. During the selection process, I had focused on the past. I focused on qualifications, not on the initiatives and projects he had in mind, and not on his motivations and aspirations and goals.
I focused on what he had done, not on what he planned to do.
Ultimately, we all need to promote the person who wants to do the job. We need someone driven to excel at those tasks so he or she can make things happen. We can't afford to promote someone who wants the position in order to get all the "stuff" that comes with the position.
You don't need a Director of Sales; you need a person who loves helping other people sell more. You don't need an Engineering Manager; you need a person who loves creating new products. You don't need a Supervisor of Whatever; you need a person who long ago made the choice that his or her happiness comes from someone else's success and who thrives on working through other people to get things done.
You need people who want the job because they want the responsibility of making things happen. You need people who want the job because then they can be even more successful at what they do well and can help others be more successful. You need people who want the job because they want to do the job--and the title only makes it easier for them to do that job.
Whenever you're in doubt, always select the candidate who doesn't care about the position. Even if that individual is less experienced or less skilled, his or her motivation and drive for doing the job will quickly make up for any shortcomings.