Want a promotion? Have a plan

By Suzanne Peterson Associate Professor of Management Emma is a senior manager who wants to be considered for a move to vice president. However, when she approached her boss about her promotion timeline, he said, "It depends. Who will take your place?" Emma faces the same problem so many emerging leaders face: She is too good at her current job to move to the next one. Emma could have made her boss' decision to promote her much easier if she had a great answer to his succession question. Learn from Emma, and don't have promotion discussions with your manager until you're able to say who will take your place and why that person will be as good (if not better) than you in the role. Identifying and developing your successor should be a key strategic priority for anyone hoping to be promoted in the next six months to two years. Not only is this a good idea for your upward mobility, but it is also important to your reputation going forward. Your replacement choice instantly becomes a reflection on you. If you choose the wrong successor, the organization may question your decision-making abilities. Moreover, you don't want to saddle your previous team with the wrong leader. You owe it to them to leave them in good hands. When deciding who can take your place, ask the following questions about the individual you are considering: What do peers think of the person? If you are promoting from within your team (the most common scenario), then you need to care about how that person is perceived by those who will be expected to follow him or her. Don't make the mistake of promoting a top performer no one will like or respect. Is the person passionate about the company, the team and the role? Don't just promote someone who wants to move up for the sake of moving up. Ask insightful questions about why the person wants the role, what plans he or she has, and his or her vision for the team, etc. You should feel confident that the person is excited about the opportunity and wants to lead. Identify what qualities or capabilities the person must have to do your job well. Your successor does not have to perform just like you, but there are undoubtedly some key skills, talents or abilities the person must have. Unless you have years to develop the person, if he or she doesn't have these now, then the individual is unlikely to be ready in six months when you'd like to transition. What strengths does the person bring to the table that you don't have, but will help the team? This takes some ego-checking. Most emerging leaders are threatened by the idea of promoting someone who can do some things better, but if you care about the health and growth of your former team, then try to elevate a person who might actually improve the team in some way. What are the person's values on balancing work and home? This has to do with culture. If, under your leadership, balance is encouraged, but the potential successor doesn't support this value, then that may alter team chemistry. Example: You did not expect people to return e-mails on the weekends, but the new leader would. Will the person make you look good for having chosen him or her? Your reputation will increase substantially when you show the ability to put talent in the right seats and improve the broader organization. Once you have taken yourself through these questions, you will know if you have a viable successor. If you don't have one now, then ask yourself if someone is close. If not, you may have to look outside. Even if you are not in a position to do any hiring, it's never too early to at least be shopping around for talented people, so you can potentially offer your boss some options when the time is right. First published in The Arizona Republic, July 5, 2014.

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