Sink or Swim Promotions

When you give someone a new position, particularly a promotion how do you handle the transition?  Do you throw them overboard and tell them “Sink or swim” or do you set up a plan to help them grow into the position?  Often it’s a sink or swim scenario.  Leaders should be lifeguards for newly promoted employees.

A person has been promoted because they are ready for new challenges; however, they probably haven’t handled the exact combination of things that you are expecting of them.  So how can you help them make the move with less stress and more success?

  1. Review expectations.  Make sure the new person is aware of the department goals and what they personally will be expected to accomplish.  It helps to know how you will be judged in the new role.
  2. Establish progress reviews.  Schedule regular times in the first few months to sit down and review how things are going for them.  Help them prioritize, if needed, and provide guidance on getting things done.
  3. Provide safety net.  To really help someone grow into management, particularly for the first time, it is really helpful to have a safe person they can turn to for help.  This may be you, or it may be someone else in the organization.  Whichever route you go, make sure the goal of this relationship is coaching.  Let them vent and then help them figure out how to move forward.
  4. Expect mistakes.  There will be mistakes made in the early days.  The key to surviving them is to learn from them so help the person see what went wrong and get them thinking about what will fix it and how they can avoid it in the future.
  5. Have their back.  The best bosses encourage people to grow, learn and fail.  They also have their employees’ backs so that it’s safe to learn on the job.  Hold them accountable to you and publically support them as they grow into their new responsibilities.

As a leader within your organization it is part of your job to make sure there are people ready to move up to meet the organization’s needs.  To do this you must help people grow through new responsibilities.  For this to be successful you must allow people to learn, including learning from mistakes.  This means giving them a chance to act in a safe environment.  Be ready to help them out when needed.  Learning by doing is not the same as being handed an anchor, thrown overboard and told “Sink or Swim”.  It’s being put into the pool with a lifeguard on duty to help when necessary.


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