Sunday, May 7th, 2017


Promotions are an important tool for CEO’s and top executives. They have impact galore, good and bad, but certainly on more than the person being promoted.  Promotions at the right time can be a booster shot for a company. New blood, new ideas, new people give new energy and focus to an organization. And a message is sent every single time for every single promotion.
“This is what matters. This is what kind of person we want. We want more of this.”
Don’t be blind to the power of promotion in your company.

l. Are you proud of every single promotion that occurs in your company.

2. Would you be OK if the discussion about the promotion and its standards were made public to the company?

3. Are you ever coerced into a promotion due to the person telling you of a possible job offer from your competition?

4. Do you take into consideration the character of the person being promoted?

5. Who do you confer with about promotions?  Do you look for contrary evidence of readiness

6. Do you make overt to the company as a whole why you are promoting this person?

7.  How often do you regret a promotion due to being surprised in some way about what you didn’t  realize about the person and their work?

I think three important issues that can be forgotten in making a promotion. Seems impossible but it’s true.  They are implied but could be more powerful if made overt.  Is this the kind of person that you want to have a lot more of in your company? How and why?  How did this person add specific value to the company and what are the hopes for what this person will do in the new role. These issues should be discussed in detail before the promotion.

Discussing these issues with as many people as you can tolerate (yes large groups can make important decisions if facilitated with some skill) will give your culture a powerful coherence and can make the acceptance of the person into the new role easier. There are tough discussions. I have seen people promoted for darned good work but who were problems personally. Mass murderers? No, but profound lack of judgment about personal and professional boundaries meaning too flirtatious, too punitive to direct reports, hiding behavior behind the freedom allowed in the job, or out and out dishonesty. Not everybody sees this at the same time but it is a blow to company energy when the smoke of these kind of issues are not checked for fire. Ignoring these signals for the sake of achievement only reduces respect to the CEO team and makes an idealistic culture a joke.

I hate to say it but hard work and loyalty play a small part in promotions. It does say a lot about the character of a person and should be highly valued. But you want the promotion to say “this person moved the needle”. They added value to the enterprise and here is how.
And a promotion is not recognition for a job done as much as an indicator of new higher expectations in the new role. “Here is why you have this new accountability and what we want to see done.”

A well written announcement can be powerful, showing fairness  the choice related to the work done and to be done. And it can teach people. ” Here is what you do to get ahead.”  “Here is the kind of person that gets promoted. Each promotion teaches the boundaries of what is OK and not OK in your company.

Another aspect of promotion that works for you or against you is the timing. Do not let people dangle waiting for a promotion that is not coming. Do not insinuate a coming promotion because you never know what might happen. A person who is left waiting too long kind of rots on the vine–loses commitment and energy and often leaves after being promoted. What you think is positive can be seen as an insult and boy will you be mad when it happens. I see more damage from promoting late than from promoting early. I’ve experienced both and I was motivated over the moon by having trust put in me a little early.  Provide support and let the talent learn.

Promotions are a big yes and a big no to people. And they involve personal fondness if it is a direct report of your own. And you can be blinded by sucking up as they say. But don’t avoid the ‘no’ because it also avoids the ‘yes’.  And yes is what makes the company go round.


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