Preparing Subordinates for the Next Promotion

by James P. Tate on December 8, 2017

A graduate school professor in Organizational Behavior posed a hypothesis to our class:  The best way to reduce or eliminate poor morale and to engage subordinates in the goals of the organization is to prepare them for the next promotion.  Our class was made up largely of experienced business managers and field grade army and air force officers.  Needless to say, this hypothesis created a great deal of discussion throughout the semester.

It was a piece of advice that I have never forgotten and each time I met with subordinates over the next 30 years of my business and consulting career, I thought back on this hypothesis.  It is a simple, yet effective, means of focusing the subordinates on the goals and success of the organization.  But, how do you implement it?

First, you must clearly state the organization’s objectives and goals.  (Objectives are what you want to accomplish: goals are the numerical ends you want to achieve to meet your objectives.)  Then, you must identify those subordinates that have potential for promotion.  Meeting with these subordinates, you discuss with them what they want in their careers and offer the opportunity for advancement to match their interests, abilities and desires.  All this sounds like Human Resources 101, right?

The next phase is the most challenging for you.  You have to develop a plan to give the subordinate increasing responsibilities and tasks that challenge him to develop a higher skill level.  These responsibilities and tasks should align with the organizational objectives.  Thus, the subordinate is working toward the organizational objectives at the same time he is working to improve his personal skills and gain business strength.  The employee should recognize that his success correlates with the success of the organization.

Be prepared for failure.  Anyone who is trying something new is bound to make mistakes and experience failure.  These errors only prove he is trying.  Use the failures as a training opportunity.  Discuss the mistake and get the subordinate to analyze his mistake and come up with a remedial action or understand what caused the mistake.

Does this method take time?  Yes.  However, it will produce dividends in the strong cadre of subordinates who are dedicated to you and the organization.  After all, you are the one who helped them gain a promotion.


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