Who Should You Promote?

Who Should You Promote?

You’re the CEO of a company, and someone in the high ranks of the firm had left.  How do you decide on the best candidate to replace the one that had just left?

Too many times, people play ‘office politics’ to fight for promotions.  But when it comes to choosing someone that is fit enough to join board meetings with the CEO, someone who only knows how to schmooze and play golf isn’t going to do the trick.  If the company is to grow, the right person must be chosen.

At board meetings, you want to have a team of diversity so that everything can be weighed into perspective.  Say if you have a CFO and COO who often agree to what you say, you might want to hire a Chief Marketing Officer who often likes to be the devil advocate.  Groupthink is a poison and if the top of the river is poisoned, so will the bottom.

Obviously, the person must be an expert in the chosen position; you can’t just choose someone who knows about marketing to become the CFO (unless she has proven otherwise).  She doesn’t have to be the best at it, and in fact it will be very much preferable if she has a breadth of knowledge rather than a narrow field of knowledge (you rather choose someone who understands accounting and the stock market regulations than someone who is only amazing at accounting with no knowledge in other financial fields).  More importantly, you want that person to be smart.  She may not be the best at something, but when she assigns a true specialist to get the results she needs, she needs to understand how the results are derived.

True specialists may not reach it to the top (could be a good thing by the way) due to several factors, one of which could be that they lack people skills.  The higher you go, the more you need to be able to manage people.  Managing people and communication become vital skills as they become your ammo in motivating the specialists to get the results you need.

Does the potential candidate identify with the corporate culture?  If not, does he have a reason not to be?  Does he believe that a change in the corporate culture will benefit the firm, and if so how?  A company who prides itself in being conservative and safe who has a board member openly opposed to these company values can create time wastage on value differences, rather than getting business strategies implemented.  Now I’m not saying that you should hire the same type of people as this will stifle creativity, what I am saying is that these people need to believe in the corporate culture and at least somewhat identify with it, unless a change in the corporate culture benefits the firm.

What about experience, how important is that?  Well it really depends.  I once heard a story about how a new principal was elected and one of the first things he did was dismiss a teacher who has worked for 20 years.  She argued it was unfair because she had 20 years of experience, but the principal made a good point and said that she only had 20 times of one year experience.  Some people’s resume on their “experience” is just a reflection of how long they have worked in that field; it doesn’t show at all if they have learned or developed any knowledge or skill sets throughout that time.  So this one is a very subjective one; you will have to be very observant in how each candidate performs.

In fact, I’d love to argue that promotions shouldn’t be done by just considering the people in the next layer of hierarchy or by age; anyone may be a suitable candidate.  A manager may have been promoted due to his hard work and dedication to a company, but someone below him may have much more potential because she may possess more people skills and a wider breadth of knowledge.  In fact, during her spare time, she enjoys learning about leadership and other topics outside of her field, and is able to apply them to real life.  It’s very important to encourage a culture where anyone can be promoted to the top; usually people at the lower layers may be very discouraged from applying even though they may be much more suitable.  How to get them to feel less pressure to apply is also something to think about.

But yes, someone in his mid 20’s / early 30’s may be much more suitable than his manager.  But at the same time, you also have to ask yourself how likely is he going to stay in the firm for a long time?  You want to hire somebody who will stick around for a long time so that the corporate team can mold together and become excellent at managing their departments.

These are just a couple of factors to think about.  I’m sure each industry and each company have their own factors that they have to consider as well.  However, I believe the few components listed are a great way to identifying a potential candidate for your corporate board.

Do you agree with what I’ve mentioned?  What other factors do you consider when choosing someone in the corporate board?

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Intrigued with ideas, strategies, and unconventional concepts. Interested in new and logical theories.

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