Assessment & Selection

Who Should You Promote?

Feb. 19th, 2018

You’ve got a team with a lot of bench strength. Several employees can do their job well, with minimal oversight. They’re hardworking, get along well with others, and seem ready for the next challenge. So when a leadership position opens up, how do you know who to promote?

Start With Competency Modeling

It can be difficult to articulate the specific behaviors and skills necessary for success in a leadership role. But it’s a worthwhile endeavor. When your organization shares a common language for leadership success, it becomes much easier to see who’s ready for that next career step.

You can select competencies that define a specific job, role, level of leadership, or your organization’s unique culture. The resulting custom set of performance descriptors define expectations for the leadership role, linked to your organization’s business goals.

Align your competencies to performance goals, and ultimately, to business strategies. The Association for Talent Development notes, “A competency model defines what success looks like and how to contribute to the organization’s mission. As a result, it drives each person’s intrinsic motivation to mastery…You need only show them what it looks like to be competent in their role, and that’s a granular, actionable competency model.” Those who are driven toward success may already exhibit many of the competencies you set forth. Others will use the competencies to set personal goals, and rise toward the challenge of meeting those goals. Either way, you’ll have a practical foundation for the promotion process.

Use Assessments to Level the Playing Field

Now that your competencies are in place, you can evaluate each candidate’s job performance on the agreed-upon merits. We recommend creating a custom battery of relevant cognitive. personality, and leadership-related measures. Combining measures gives you a well-rounded portrait of your team members. It also enables you to evaluate each candidate’s current strengths and gaps.

But just because a candidate excels in their current position doesn’t necessarily mean they have the skills that translate to next-level leadership. You’ll also want to assess for performance potential against the specific requirements of the role as well.

The assessment battery is an important piece of the puzzle. But it’s not the only piece. Interviewing candidates with a standardized protocol of questions is valuable as well. Interviews can often devolve into a casual, unstructured conversation. Structure your questions so that, in their answers, candidates can tie your leadership competencies to their own real-world examples. The Harvard Business Review says, “…structured interviews, whereby each candidate is asked the same set of defined questions, ‘standardize the interview process’ and ‘minimize bias’ by allowing employers to ‘focus on the factors that have a direct impact on performance.’ ” Treat the interview as another source of data, used in tandem with the cognitive and personality measures, to determine who is meeting the competencies you seek.

Think About People Skills

Many organizations hand out promotions as a reward for longevity and loyalty. Others promote those with exceptional technical skills to get the job done.

Your candidates may be well-trained, intelligent, and detail-oriented. But if they lack interpersonal skills, they may not be effective leaders down the road. When you’re looking to promote someone, the ability to communicate effectively, resolve conflict, and give productive feedback are all essential for leadership success.

Just as important is a “we” mentality. True Q4 leadership balances a high regard for getting things done with high respect for others. According to, “successful executives are not only comfortable relying on their teams for new strategies, they actively foster a culture of collaboration.”

While basic people skills are an important foundation for future leadership success, you can also develop your high-potentials with leadership development workshops, executive coaching, and 360° feedback.


When you combine competency modeling with assessments and leadership development, your team will spend less time on conflicts and misunderstandings — and more time getting things done. Establishing a baseline for success helps you pick the right person for promotion and give them the skills to succeed in their new role.