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HR Matters // A Newsletter On: Creating exceptional workplaces and extraordinary results
HR MATTERS Vol 8, Issue 7 - July 2011

Has this ever happened to you? Your high potential took a nose-dive the moment you promoted them into management? The first time this occurred, you probably thought you had overestimated their potential. The next time, (and the time after), you realized that you may have actually had something to do with their downfall.

This month's article Seven Mistakes Leaders Make When it Comes to Promoting High Potentials challenges you to examine your contribution to the demise of high potentials, which are the future leaders of your business. Take note of the mistakes made along the way, so that next time you'll choose a route that will lead to a very different ending.

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Seven Mistakes Leaders Make When it Comes to Promoting High Potentials

By Roberta Chinsky Matuson

There are two moments that stand out in the minds of experienced leaders. They are the first time they promoted someone into management and the day they had to tell that person, "Things aren't working out." But what is most troublesome to these leaders is the fact that they know, deep down inside; this person never had a chance.

Here are seven common mistakes leaders make when it comes to promoting high potentials and what you can do to avoid disaster the next time around.

1. Promoting the Wrong Person
You promoted your top sales person into management based on performance and he is failing miserably as a leader. Revenues are slipping and the sales team is ready to bolt. You made the deadly mistake of assuming that excellence in one job would easily translate into superior performance in another, even though the skill sets required of each job are drastically different. Don't be so quick next time to promote your best technical person into management, unless he clearly demonstrates he has the skills and the desire to successfully take on the role of a leader.

2. Too Much Rope
You had high hopes for this individual, as did everyone else. So you left her alone to do her thing. In retrospect, that was your first mistake. You gave her too much rope and she hung herself. Next time, let the rope out slowly until such time as this person has demonstrated they are ready to fly solo.

3. Assuming He'll Pick Things Up Like You Did
You learned the hard way how to manage and you didn't turn out so bad so why shouldn't your new protégé learn the same way? Business is challenging enough in today's tumultuous economy. Maybe this isn't the right time for your sink or swim approach to management. The next time around, try coaching your new manager and swimming besides him, before throwing him into the deep end of the pool.

4. Failure to Provide Feedback
You figured she'd know exactly what you expected, even though you never clearly defined your expectations. Heck, your family members have figured this out. But you forgot to consider that unlike your wife, this person couldn't read minds. In the future, outline the objectives and metrics and make it a point to check in weekly to ensure your new manager remains on track.

5. You Never Bothered to Re-staff His Position
Your shining star was so great that he could do the work of two people. That may be fine when your work is tactical. But how can someone successfully lead, when they can't lift their head up from their own desk long enough to engage with their people? Succession planning is your job. Have someone ready to fill the shoes that will be vacated, before you promote your next employee.

6. You Let Her Wear Her Tiara
In your eyes, your high potential could do no wrong so you probably never noticed that when she was crowned, she immediately became overly demanding. You should have provided her with business etiquette lessons, before she ticked off the entire kingdom. Now it's too late and you must ban her from the organization. Next time, set boundaries so your new leader doesn't have the commoners hating her, before they have a chance to get to know her.

7. You Managed His Every Move
You became the micromanager we all know and despise. He couldn't breathe without your permission. It didn't take long before his people realized who was really in control. Next time around, allow new leaders the time and space necessary to forge their own identity. Take a step back and allow them to succeed.

As leaders, it's your job to identify and nurture high-potentials and to help them successfully assimilate into management. Learn from your mistakes so that next time you can say, "I'm really glad things are working out so well."

© 2011 Human Resource Solutions. All rights reserved.

Roberta Chinsky Matuson is the President of Human Resource Solutions ( and author of the highly acclaimed book Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around, Sign up to receive a complimentary subscription to Roberta's monthly newsletter, HR Matters.


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For more than 25 years, Roberta Matuson, president of Matuson Consulting, has helped leaders in Fortune 500 companies and small to medium-size businesses create exceptional workplaces leading to extraordinary results. As a seasoned consultant, Roberta is considered a leading authority on leadership and the skills and strategies required to earn employee commitment and client loyalty.

She is the author of the highly acclaimed book, Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around and is a highly sought after speaker, consultant and executive coach.

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