There is a paradox to promotion managers still don't understand. And it starts with a few questions to find where you fit in this scenario:
Are you a manager of people and hoping for a promotion yourself?
Are you a manager of people and super certain of who you should promote next?
Are you in a sales role or a role which uses metrics to decide who is the best at their job? And you're hoping to get promoted?
Have you heard of The Peter Principle?
Or, if you just want to read a short article that is ridiculously entertaining but more importantly proves some axioms of business, like how we decide who gets promoted, is often completely counter intuitive - then keep reading!
Let's get started.
What is the Peter Principle and why should you understand how it works?
"The Peter principle is a concept in management developed by Laurence J. Peter, which observes that people in a hierarchy tend to rise to their "level of incompetence" - Wiki
But there is more to it. So what does this really mean?
Two Crucial Concepts from the Peter Principle:
Scenario 1. Managers in the Same Role
If you are a manager and you have been in the same manager role for a VERY long time, I'll let you decide on what that is, and you haven't been promoted up, this means you're not fully competent in your job, because no one trusts to promote you further.
Solution 1: If you're ok with that, love your job, enjoy your pay, then great, keep going. And don't worry what other people think. We need to spend less time worrying about stuff like that. Just be the authentic you. People will respect you more for it.
Solution 2: Convince the right people you are not only competent of your current position, but find a way to start doing the position you want next! Checkout The-Inspired's Career Advice section for some of best but most misunderstood or lesser known tools, tactics and habits to move you up the ladder.
Solution 3: But if you hate your job, or marginally dislike it, and you're still waiting for a promotion, and have tried it all, well, then know that it probably will never come. Make your peace with this. You are more than the place you work, or your job title, anyway. If you are tired of your job, ready for a change, but not sure what to do next - then that's great! This is an exciting time for you. Read our Inspired Foundations section at The-Inspired to get started.
Scenario 2. You are a Manager and not sure who to Promote?
Typically promotions work like this: if it's a sales role, which is easy to measure, or any role where the stats are easy to measure, then managers have a tendency to hire the sales person who has the highest sales, as their reward. This is great, except it will destroy your team cohesiveness and connection, it will kill your overall sales, and might just get you fired.
The Paradox of this approach Part 1: Top Sales Reps Are Bad Managers, on Average. Those who get the most sales are likely as hungry for results as they are selfish for those results. Which means they may not, and often won't, make the best managers.
Great managers are good with people, empathy, and developing their teams. Great managers put others first. So, by promoting your top sales person, you not only lose all their sales, as the Peter principle explains, you also see sales from the rest of the team drop, because that sales lead isn't interested in their resources personal development, and they may force their approach on others. And now you're stuck with a bad business.
The Paradox of this approach Part 2: Poor Sales Reps Might be Your Best Promotion.
Someone in a sales role who is great with people, great at building relationships, understands the product, but just can't get the sales because, well, they're just too moral, or kind, or nice, or empathetic, might actually be your best promotion pick. These employees will help the team because thats what they were placed on this earth to do - help others, and put the team, the organization first. Even at their own expense.
BUT - The Warning in Part 2: Your top sales lead will not like the news they were passed up on the promotion. They may not want to hear that they have already reached at the highest place in the organization they can go. So compensate them or do something to ensure they understand their importance to you and the organization. Or watch them leave, or worse, watch them start mailing in their performance.
A special thanks to Malcom Gladwell for the idea behind this story. If you haven't listened to his podcast Revisionist History, we highly recommend it. I enjoy them most in the mornings when I go for my 7km runs. A great way to wake up our mind and body all at once, and maintain those all important Inspired Foundations. Because without a healthy mind and body, nothing lasting can follow.
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About the author - Goran Yerkovich is the founder of The-Inspired.com, an online magazine designed to help readers reach their personal goals. The-Inspired includes some of the best tools, tactics, and habits from the greatest minds of today and yesterday. Goran lives in the greater Vancouver area with his wife and two cats Kimchi and Kauai.