You Could be Promoting Employees Entirely Wrong

Written by: PeopleKeep Team
Originally published on February 26, 2015. Last updated July 14, 2022.

Promoting your employees to leadership positions is exciting for both you and your employees. Many Promoting_Employees_Entirely_Wrongtimes, you get to see them start at your small business at an entry-level position and work their way up. But, have you ever thought about the employees you’re promoting to help lead your company? Have you ever wondered what the best way to promote an employee is and if they’re really the best for the position?

Truth is, there’s never any way to be 100 percent positive that the employees you promote will be the best for leadership. However, there are guidelines you can follow to minimize the risk and help you promote the right employees for the right positions.

Hard Workers Do Not Always Equal Good Leaders

If there is one thing you should know, it’s that just because you have a hard-working, over-achieving, superstar employee doesn’t mean they’ll be equally as compelling in a leadership position.

In fact, many hard-working employees who go the extra mile are not comfortable with leadership and would rather be led. Knowing this, what are qualities you can look for to help you find the right employee to promote?

Look for These Qualities in an Employee

Rather than wait until the last second to find the best qualities in an employee, watch for them over the course of months and even years. Here are some key qualities you should be digging for:

Employees who take the initiative. It’s easy to tell who is a natural-born leader by putting them in a group setting and seeing who automatically takes the role to lead. Now, it’s also important to remember that you should not base a decision to promote on this solely. Some of your employees may have a desire to lead, but still have a lot of work to do before they are the leader you need.

Employees who care about their co-workers and customers. This is huge. If you have an employee who performs his/her job admirably, but does so without caring for those around him/her, including the customers, it would be hard to imagine that employee in a leadership position. Remember, hard workers do not always equal good leaders.

Employees with a passion for the company’s mission and vision. You’ve created your company’s mission and vision with a purpose, right? And when you see employees capturing the essence of your mission and vision, it’s exciting! As such, look for employees who clearly share the same values, goals, and aspirations as the company. Employees like this are likely to have a better grasp on where you are taking your company and will help you get there.

Employees who aren’t afraid to fail. Everyone has to fail at some point, but the difference between an employee who is leadership material and one that is not is the way they handle failure. Watch for employees who learn from their mistakes, quickly pick themselves back up, and succeed soon after.

Employees with a positive attitude. When it comes down to it, you need a leader who can stay positive in some of the most difficult times. Over time, watch your employees and see how they react during less-than-ideal times. If they keep an overall positive attitude, chances are they would do the same as a leader.

How to Promote an Employee

Now that you know what to look for in an employee you would like to promote, how should you go about promoting them? Honestly, it’s easier than you think. You’ve done the hard part by carefully selecting them based on the above criteria. Now, all you have to do is talk to them privately.

Rather than calling them into your office and slapping an offer on the table, talk to your employee a little bit. Ask them what they like about their job and what they feel should be improved. After having a quick discussion, and you’re still feeling good about the promotion, ask them if they are comfortable with leadership.

Asking is the key here. Too many employers spring a new position on an employee and they feel they have to accept it. This, however, is not the right way to do it. By asking your employee if they feel comfortable with leading, you’re giving them an option without actually offering any position.

Then, if the employee says they are comfortable leading, you can offer them the position. See, it’s not that hard, is it?


Choosing the future leaders of your small business is important.They will be the ones who make critical decisions which could either help or hinder your company’s growth. As such, remember these key things:

  • A hard worker doesn’t always equal a good leader

  • Look for key traits in an employee before promoting

  • Promote by asking, not telling

What do you do to promote employees? Leave a comment below.

Originally published on February 26, 2015. Last updated July 14, 2022.


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