Take a moment and picture the following scenario in your head: You are leading a small business with a projected forecast for growth in the next 18 months. You need to hire an operations manager for a growing team. You take a look at your talent pool and know that there are people who are ready to be leaders. In fact, the first person who comes to mind is Jen. She is a hard worker. She works tirelessly to get everything done. You trust her to deliver what you need, when you need it. She knows the business inside and out and you can’t think of a better person to step-into a leadership role and run your operations department. But there might be a few red flags to consider first before you promote Jen: First red flag - your knowledge capital could be at risk. Jen is an expert in business operations. She knows what it takes and she knows the right people to get the work done. But all of that knowledge is in Jen's head. You need to fill the gap that will be left in her place. Spread out the knowledge among the team with a process that outlines what the work is, who does the work, how to do the work, and ways to improve and grow. Take extra time to map out the processes, roles, responsibilities, and hand-off’s. In doing this, you will save time in the long run and will also help the person back-filling Jen's spot. Second red flag - Jen is a functional expert. This is where she shines and where she is an asset to the team. However, leading a team is very different than doing the work yourself. This is an opportunity for you to equip Jen with leadership development coaching. Give her space to step away from daily tasks and activities so she can begin to think creatively and strategically with a coaching partner. Third red flag – does Jen even want to be a leader? Maybe you alluded to it a few times, and maybe she seemed interested. Are you sure that placing Jen in a leadership role is the right solution? Is it something that she really wants to do? If she’s not the right person for the role, you run the risk of a very bumpy 12-18 months. Worst case scenario - you start all over again with a new leader and added transition time. Before you make a quick decision about promoting Jen, consider the following:
Develop solid work processes so your knowledge capital is safe.
Talk with Jen about what it is she really wants to do next. Partner with her and mentor her as she considers her future career goals.
Find a professional coach for Jen so she can identify her strengths as a leader and transition her thinking into a leadership paradigm.
Take stock of your potential leaders right now. Map out your critical processes, consider the true talents of your team, and then make a decision about the leadership role. It might take a little more time up front, but it will save you a tremendous amount of time, effort, and money in the end. If you would like some help in ensuring that your own “Jen” is ready for a leadership role, contact me. We can talk about how I can help both you and “Jen.”