Skipping Rungs Could Mean Trouble

I recently met with The Boss who was frustrated with a newly promoted manager. During our discussion, I found out the new manager was young and not very experienced. I asked how did this person become a manager if he was not ready for the responsibility? The Boss expressed that he had no choice, there was no one else he trusted to promote within his company. I then asked what qualifications did The Boss see in this person that caused The Boss to promote him?

The Boss said the new manager was one of his top technicians and had an excellent attendance record. I asked if the person had ever been in a position of authority before? The Boss answered, “not really.”

This scenario is happening more often than we’d like in today’s crazy environment where we do not have a sufficient workforce to fill open positions, including open management positions. We begin to promote new managers up the managerial ladder skipping rungs that are important for the person’s professional development. Back in the day, when an employee began to climb the managerial ladder, they began as a supervisor and next was promoted to an assistant manager. After several years, this person would then be promoted to manager. Then promoted from manager to higher positions of authority over larger numbers of people and corresponding financials. Through this progression, the employee would learn “what to do” and “what not to do.” Both experiences are important for their professional development and for them to grow into an effective leader.

Each position of authority an employee holds helps them to understand people and gives them an opportunity to be mentored by The Boss. Skipping rungs on the managerial ladder can set a good employee up for failure. I can understand the necessity of having a person in charge and the person who shows up for work every day is a good candidate. Especially when we have a workforce in flux as we do today. If The Boss decides to promote a good employee up the managerial ladder and skip rungs in the process, The Boss also needs to understand the time commitment needed to mentor this new manager. Patience and coaching from The Boss are key to this new manager’s success. Those of us who have worked with people most of our careers understand that the best technician may not be the best manager. Getting someone to do what you need them to do and like it, is a talent and does not happen without dedicated communication and oftentimes empathy. The Boss must recognize the soft skills are just as important, and some may say more important, than the technical skills needed to be a manager.

The Boss must remember that good employees leave an organization because they can and when a good employee is put in a position where they feel they do not have the support they need to succeed, they will leave, and your competition will have gained a valuable employee at your expense. Promote the best candidate to management you can, but also set the new manager up to succeed. Good people want to be led, be The Boss who leads and coaches them to personal success.