Promoting a talented employee to the next level should be a good news story ............ right?

Meet Andy.

Andy works for a medium sized travel agency where six months ago, he was a star employee. Bright, engaged, motivated, he constantly outperformed himself as a travel sales agent. So, when his supervisor’s position fell vacant, the owner of the Agency did not think twice before offering the role to Andy. And, as an ambitious and talented person, Andy was only too happy to accept the additional responsibilities. These entailed managing a team of five staff, some of who were more experienced than him and had a longer employment history at the agency. Two were relatively new employees.

A short honeymoon

The honeymoon period in the new role was short-lived and problems started to crop up within a few weeks. His former colleagues, who were quite friendly with him before, continued to see him as a friend and refused to take his authority seriously. Andy was not equipped to manage a situation when his authority was challenged by older and more experienced staff.

He continued to focus on his own sales performance, neglecting the managerial responsibility of ensuring that all his team members were reaching their sales targets. So, without much of supervision the new and inexperienced team members started to slow down and revenue started to fall. Andy had no idea how to improve the situation – that is train, motivate and performance manage the employees who are failing to reach their sales targets. He renewed his own sales efforts trying to address the shortfall himself and in the process began to get exhausted and de-motivated.

The owner of the Agency started to doubt his decision to put Andy in this role. In the pressure of falling revenue and staff issues, cracks started to appear in their former solid relationship.

Unfortunately, a good news story turned into a no-win situation.

Could this be a different story?

It could have been a very different story if prior to his appointment as the Supervisor, Andy’s manager defined the role clearly including what skills would be necessary to perform satisfactorily in the role. Staff supervision requires a different set of skills than being a great sales person (or any other professional).

For example, as a Supervisor, Andy needed to learn and develop leadership skills to effectively guide the team and manage their performance to remain on track. He needed solid training in people management and understanding financial documents such as a budget to follow the department’s financial goals.

When an employee is promoted to a managerial level the first time, they need to make a necessary mental/emotional transition to become one. Andy needed coaching and mentoring support to make this transition successful.

Promoting a high performing employee to a more senior position is an excellent retention strategy. However, for this to work, managers need to have a long term plan and set the employee up for success with adequate training, development and support system. The employee’s talent, motivation and aspiration would do the rest. The combined result is more likely to be a better news story than Andy’s.


Mahua Das

Mahua Das

Director at Next Gen Teams

I am an HR professional recently started my own consultancy. My preferred area of work is organisational change management. I live in Sydney, love to travel and also am an avid foodie.

Next Gen Teams

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John Belchamber

John Belchamber , Owner & Senior Consultant at Invoke Results

A story repeated all too often across industries and business sizes Mahua. Thank you for sharing it.

Phil Joel

Phil Joel , Director at SavvySME

Great article Mahua. I think too many of us take it for granted that people will be able to naturally go from being a great individual contributor to being a great manager. As you pointed out, it requires a completely different set of skills which can be learnt of course. I remember getting a promotion was one of the most stressful moments of my working life. I was thrown into the deep-end and had to learn FAST.

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