When someone in an executive leadership position leaves abruptly, the CEO/Owner/President has some tough choices to make. Many are tempted to survey the organizational landscape, determine who appears to be the person on the team that is most likely to be promoted and offer them the opportunity to fill that open slot.
It’s easy to see the appeal:
· The candidate gets the chance to prove that they have what it takes and gets a promotion that comes with a loftier title and a bigger paycheck.
· The CEO/Owner/President gets to promote from within and save the time and money a search might require.
I have clients who have seen this work out quite well. I also have clients where the result result is work for me. The new executive feels the pressure to show not just what they can do, but also that they were the right choice. The desire to show results quickly creates a focus on the outcome without an understanding of the relationship dynamics with the new team and colleagues that are required to make it possible. The CEO/Owner/President begins to hear a rumble among the employees and colleagues as they chafe at the new hire’s failure to see the impact of the their behavior and their inability to replace it with more effective actions.
Is there another option?
Of course – but it isn’t often one that a CEO/Owner/President likes to hear. It can mean that they have to stop what they are currently doing which tends to be essential to the continued growth and development of the entire organization. The preference is to not miss a step, not stop what they are doing, and not rearrange their priorities. What they might need to do, however, is put some things on hold, step in and help manage the responsibilities of the now-departed leader, and get Human Resources and their favorite search firm to find a replacement pronto!
If you are in the position of having to replace a leader who leaves suddenly, think about this: if the people who are left on the team were from other organizations and had submitted their resume for the vacant position, would you interview them? Would you hire them? If the answer is no, then it may be prudent not to promote them.
If you do not think someone is qualified to be promoted, they deserve to be told about the gap between what they have and what you need. Suggest ways they might be able to close the gap for consideration in the future.
Sometimes it works out well. The person is elevated and is successful in their new role. The transition is not terribly disruptive, the CEO/Owner/President can continue to spend their time doing the things ONLY they can do, the team barely feels the difference in leadership, and the employee in the new position blows the doors off everyone’s expectations.
And sometimes a person is promoted into a position they are not ready for and I can provide support for them, their team, and perhaps the CEO/Owner/President.