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The Secret Sauce for Promotion Decisions
Leaders focus on many qualities when selecting, developing, and promoting colleagues in an organization. Core competencies, such as:
1. Setting a clear strategy and vision
2. Understanding and navigating the organization
3. Making quality decisions
…allow leaders to differentiate between worthy colleagues. By assessing the skills and behaviors that contribute to superior performance, leaders discern the gap between where a team member is and where they need to be.
Competency-based approaches have proven a reliable and steady friend to leaders for several decades. When it comes to promotion, however, the best leaders add another layer of understanding to assist in their decision-making. Deciding who is ready for more leadership responsibility or who should be selected into the exclusive club of “senior” leaders, such as partners, officers, managing directors and the like, is a decision that often defines many teams and organizations. This is where “standards” can play a significant role that benefits everyone.
Leaders naturally turn to the unspoken “stuff” they believe makes the difference when assessing the true merits of a colleague. Making these qualities known for everyone adds a powerful dimension to the process.
When leaders articulate the standards colleagues must exemplify, it allows both decision-makers and prospective promotion candidates to better understand what is missing.
Unlike competencies, standards reflect a level of quality attainment rather than a skill or talent. Standards are never achieved, but earned every day. When described clearly, they paint a vivid picture of the qualities expected of an individual or group.
A standard like, “This person owns all of the problems in the organization,” can never be checked off or considered completed. They are subjective judgments based on the whole record. Whereas colleagues can use competencies as a checklist to know they have the skills, standards require people to make the case for the way they show up in an organization.
Standards like: “This colleague represents and protects the organizational brand in external relationships,” or “The team decisions we make are better because of this colleague’s contributions.” Standards set the bar. Transparency in the standards leaders use to consider promotion allows colleagues to strive for a higher level of performance without wondering what the magic sauce is.
Relying on a set of core competencies to judge the skill level of those under consideration is requisite for making good selection, development and promotion decisions. Adding a set of standards to further inform promotion decisions gives leaders the insight they need to be sure. As Colin Powell reminded us, “Excellence is not an exception; it is a prevailing attitude.”