Promoting New Leaders: Benefits, Risks, and Strategies for Success
The challenging and competitive labour market the hospitality industry is facing is nothing new, and there are numerous articles and strategies to improve retention and attract the best candidates. However, this problem has compounded in recent years with the number of people leaving the industry. At the leadership level, a void and skillset gap has emerged, making it very difficult to find candidates to fill the seemingly endless number of vacant leadership positions. When operators are unable to fill leadership positions with qualified candidates, they have a limited number of options to consider.
- Leave the position vacant and add the workload to existing managers. Assuming everyone is working hard and have their plates full, this option is the least viable and will likely lead to retention and/or performance issues.
- Offer a more competitive compensation package to attract qualified individuals. This may work if candidates are turning down offers and if you included the compensation package in the job posting and are not receiving many qualified candidates. Keep in mind that increasing the salary of an incoming leader may cause issues with people in similar positions within the organization if you do not adjust their compensation.
- Stretch/Growth positions: Consider candidates that do not possess all the skills but are capable of quickly developing in the position.
Let’s face it, there are simply not enough managers to go around. So, for many hoteliers and restaurateurs, number three is the only viable option. They are promoting and hiring people in leadership roles that may not have acquired the tools, training, or experience needed to hit the ground running.
Although stretch positions are nothing new, at one point or another during our careers, there will be people who are hired or promoted into a position they are not completely ready for. As a leader, it is important to understand some pros and cons and how to successfully select and set up the candidate for success.
- Opportunity for growth: By promoting leaders who are not quite ready, organizations can provide them with a challenge and an opportunity for growth. There are also certain aspects of every position that the employee cannot learn or experience in their current position. A stretch position can help them develop new skills and gain experience in leadership roles they may not have had otherwise.
- New perspective: Promoting people who have not been in similar positions or are not quite ready can add a new perspective and approach. This can help bring new life and energy to the leadership team and help the organization to innovate and stay competitive.
- Culture & morale boost: When an employee sees other employees within the organization promoted to a leadership position, it boosts morale, encourages others to strive for new positions, and improves the culture by bridging the gap between the employees and leaders.
- Negative impact on performance: Promoting someone who does not possess all the skills can have a negative impact on organizational performance. Without the right support, the new leader may struggle with the transition and the demands of the new position, leading to poor decision-making.
- Risk of failure: It is possible that a new leader could fail in their new position. This can have many negative effects on the employee’s confidence and reputation.
- Negative impact on culture and team morale: If the leader is not ready for the position, respected by current peers, or selected for the right reasons, it can lead to frustration and a lack of trust from team members. This can negatively impact team morale, likely lead to the failure of the new leader, and make it difficult to achieve the organization’s goals.
The Keys to Stretch Position Success
I am a firm believer in stretch roles, and there is nothing more enjoyable than seeing someone thrive in their new role. You can almost feel their excitement! For those of us that have taken that same leap of faith, you know the opportunity was frightening and exciting all at the same time. The difference between success and failure lies within the selection process, transition to the new role, and support and coaching.
The selection of the right candidate is the most critical component. It can not only be the difference between succeeding and failing, but it can also have a significant impact on the organization’s culture.
When selecting a candidate, qualities such as ambition, enthusiasm, and confidence are all very important, but a candidate that can influence the decision solely based on their ability to wow the boss with these skills alone is destined to fail. Too often, managers hire people based more on how they make them feel than the work they do and their abilities. We are naturally drawn to people that are like us, and this can cause us to overlook obvious red flags or gaps in their skillset. Organizations that do not have a structured and measurable interview process usually end up hiring the same type of people and suffer from a lack of diversity and innovation.
It should be a given that anyone seeking a promotion who is not ambitious and enthusiastic is not the right candidate. Potential leaders should have the ability to communicate with the manager on a professional level. They may not, nor should they be, expected to be able to talk in-depth about the manager’s interest in a sports team or hobby, and the last time I checked, these were not listed as necessary skills in the food and beverage industry.
The ideal candidate is passionate, energized, enthusiastic, highly responsible, takes ownership for good or bad, and has a strong foundation of competencies to build upon. More importantly, they need the courage to transition from being a peer to leading the work group, with the potential to quickly and effectively learn the remaining skills to succeed in the position.
Transition, Support, and Coaching
Now that the best candidate has been selected, the responsibility for their success depends on the transition into the position, the support system in place, and ongoing coaching and development.
The transition plan needs to include a detailed and thorough training program for all aspects of their new role, and this responsibility falls on the hiring manager. It is important that nothing is left to chance and that the leaders understand the tactical and task-oriented aspects of the position.
It needs to be understood that the new leader will likely make some mistakes along the way, many of which can be avoided by addressing as many situations as possible during their initial training. The leader needs to understand that mistakes happen. The important thing is to learn from them. Having someone to call during difficult or unfamiliar situations will provide support when they need it most.
The new leader will require more coaching than someone who has experienced the position before. It is easy to say that the manager will provide coaching, but the reality is they may not have the time needed when they barely have enough time to train on the day-to-day operations.
You and the new leader have taken a chance and you have found enough time to teach them the ins and outs of successfully managing a shift. At this point, the new leader spends a great deal of time on their own with their teams and less one-on-one interaction and coaching from the manager.
Keep in mind that you promoted someone with ambition, and they have risen to the challenge. Keep engaging with the new leader and provide as many developmental and coaching opportunities inside and outside of the organization to increase their ability to contribute to the success of the operation and to maintain their enthusiasm and commitment.
Overall, promoting new leaders who are not ready can be a risky strategy. While it can provide opportunities for growth and innovation, it can also have negative consequences for organizational performance and team morale. Therefore, it is important for organizations to carefully consider the readiness of potential leaders before promoting them to leadership positions.