It is a rare manager, who, in the span of a career does not wonder how a boss or a peer got their current position.
Perhaps that is what led management guru Peter Drucker to say, “The attempt to find “potential” is altogether futile.” In his book, Management Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, Drucker goes on to say that trying to pick out good future managers in a field of candidates is less likely to succeed than just taking every fifth person in the organization.
These situations give us pause to think of Peter’s principle; “Everyone rises to their level of incompetence. The only reason our system does not collapse is that not everyone reaches their level of incompetence at the same time!”
Most managers want supervisors who will get the work done, who will find creative solutions to problems, who will save the company money, and who will develop employees to their fullest potential.
So how do you decide? How do you figure out amongst those fresh, eager faces who will ultimately be the best new supervisor, manager, executive?
While there are no guarantees with anyone, there are ways you can assess individuals to help make your decision of whom to promote the most intelligent one possible.
The assessment process is comprised of three basic steps;
- Review the candidate’s work record.
- Interview the candidate.
- Interview the candidate’s internal and external customers.
This assessment process is complex and will require considerable effort to complete, but will yield supervisors more likely to succeed in their new careers.
Review the Candidate’s Work Record
The place to start evaluating the potential of a candidate is their current work record. The best reflection of what a person will do in the future is what they have done in the past.
Examining the following four areas will help make the first cuts:
1) Attendance record. Review the candidate’s attendance record. Look for consistency.
2) Prior performance reviews. Review the candidate’s prior performance reviews. A strong candidate will show continual improvement.
Look for consistency in their performance over time.
3) Steady growth in job skills. A strong candidate is one who continues to improve in their current job. They ask questions seeking to expand their knowledge of the business. They look for ways to improve that are beyond the scope of their current jobs.
4) Ability to get along with peers. A big part of the new supervisor’s job will be getting work done through others. A good indication of this ability is how they get along with their peers.
Interview the Candidate
If you have the responsibility of promoting someone to the supervisory level you need to make sure that they have the interest and the skills to do the job. The best way to do that, in addition to reviewing their work record, is to interview them for the job. (You wouldn’t offer a job to someone just from reading a resume, would you?)
The promotion interview can take place all at once or over a period of days. If you cover the following six elements, you will increase your chance of selecting the right person the first time.
1) Make sure the person is interested in supervision. It is not true that every individual who does good work in their jobs wants to be promoted. Do not make this assumption!
2) Explain reasons for the promotion. A promotion candidate needs to know why they are being considered for additional responsibility. Don’t assume that they know why. They may, but tell them anyway. In other words, discuss all the success criteria you have established for a supervisor and how this candidate meets those criteria.
3) Outline new responsibilities. To supervise effectively, one must be able to plan, organize, direct, and control work processes. This is significantly different than the worker who is responsible solely for the completion of a task. The candidate needs to understand and accept the responsibility for managing the people involved in the production of the work, as well as the work itself.
4) Determine their views on supervision. Spend some time with the candidate discussing their views about supervision. After all, a worker’s ideas about supervision have been molded mostly by the people that have supervised them. Ask how they view the role of supervisor as different from that of the worker. Ask what they consider as being good and bad characteristics of a supervisor and why.
5) Discuss to whom the new supervisor will report. In these days of matrix management, the question of who you report to is not as simple as it might once have been. The candidate needs to understand who they are accountable to and for what.
6) Discuss the people who will be the new supervisor’s responsibility. Remember, the supervisor is responsible for managing the people doing the work, so they need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of those who report to them.
Interview the Candidate’s Internal and External Customers
The best way to find out how the supervisor candidate works with people is to talk to their internal and external customers. The most obvious group is their peer group.
But many others can provide valuable insight into the potential of an individual. Talk to other people who have contact with the candidate like supervisors or workers in other departments. If your candidate has contact with customers or suppliers, ask for their feedback.
One Final Thought
The job of finding and developing talented supervisors will forever be a difficult task for management. Even the diligent manager who follows each of these guidelines is not guaranteed success. People are not always what they seem. People change. Businesses change. The person who is just right for the job this year may be inadequate in the next decade.
Nonetheless, it is up to you to separate the wheat from the chaff, and in doing so, find the supervisor that may one day become the president of the company.
If you are still having trouble deciding on a candidate, consider Paul’s instruction to Timothy regarding the selection of overseers (1 Timothy 3:2-4). In describing the characteristics of a good overseer, Paul used words like temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, uncontentious, and free from the love of money.
If you think about it, these are traits that should apply to all of us, all the time. Make it a point to review this list every morning. It will help keep you focused in the right direction.
This week’s post is excerpted from a 5-page whitepaper entitled, “Who Should Climb the Ladder? How to Determine Who is a Good Promotion Candidate.”
This whitepaper includes a broader discussion of how to determine who is a good promotion candidate.
You can download the whitepaper here: “Who Should Climb the Ladder? How to Determine Who is a Good Promotion Candidate.”
Join the Conversation
As always, questions and comments are welcome. Have you struggled to make decisions about who to promote? What criteria did you find helpful?
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Category: Skills | Human Resource Development