One strategy for retaining top performers is to promote them into areas of more and more responsibility. This helps businesses fill the succession pipeline, provides stretch-goals for an individual’s development and plays into the idea that we should all strive to be promoted. Sounds like a win-win, right?
The reality is, at some point, we inevitably promote people above their innate abilities and outside their true passions. Sometimes we don’t want to lose that special someone, and to keep them, we promote them whether they are ready or not. Sometimes Operations needs to fill a position in a hurry and rather than recruiting someone new, we promote one of our existing rock stars. And sometimes it is simply the next logical step in a career progression.
We tend to make two assumptions in our promotions that set our businesses and our employees up for failure. We assume that our star performers who do amazingly well at one level will automatically have the skill set to succeed at the next. This is assumption doesn’t typically reflect reality, and our star performers often get left to their own devices without the guidance they need to do well.
We also tend to assume employees will jump at the promotion even if we can’t deliver the appropriate expectations of the new competencies and responsibilities that the new position requires – such as taking on a greater workload, managing former peers, or transitioning away from care.
These factors, combined with employees’ own desire to do the right thing, can lead employees to accept these promotions because they believe they are expected to. Think about it, very few employees have the personal wherewithal to turn down a promotion. There is no part of our known success narrative that says, “remaining an individual contributor is the way to the top!”
These are assumptions that we, as managers, need to actively acknowledge and learn how to mitigate.
Dr. Lisa M. Aldisert writes in “AONE Competencies for Post Acute Care Nursing Leaders”:
“Simply put, leadership takes a different set of skills, which is why not everyone is willing or even called to be a leader. The first question to ask is if the person who is getting promoted truly wants to be in a managerial role.
Management also requires additional competencies such as scheduling, planning and organization, navigating interdepartmental conflicts, giving feedback to employees, coaching and developing the team, delegation, goal setting and more. Many of these skills won’t have been developed or utilized in the nurse’s former role. The skills that make you a great nurse don’t necessarily make you a great manager.”
Wise words, indeed.
So how can we do this better?
- Check and manage your own assumptions
- Provide the candidate with a full and accurate understanding of the position
- Explain to the candidate the level of training and support they will receive to make the transition
- Give the candidate time and opportunity to ask questions and ruminate on their decision
- Respect their decision, even if it is to remain in an individual contributor role.
And if we get a “yes”, what can be done to help new managers better acclimate?
Dr Aldisert suggests the following things:
Support the Promotion
Whether it be through training, personnel management, or time allotment, senior leadership must support the new nurse manager in making the transition. Otherwise, you are setting your manager up for a rocky ride and some failure along the way.
Hear Your New Manager Out
Your new nurse manager may have ideas that are very different from your approach. Listen to them! Take the promotion as an opportunity to receive some great ideas directly from the floor, from someone who has first-hand experience with what works and what doesn’t. You have a unique opportunity to understand how management decisions trickle down into both nurse and patient experiences.
In addition, giving credit to your new manager’s ideas will help instill confidence, which is a major help when transitioning into a new position.
Make a Mentor Match
One of the biggest benefits a mentor can provide is guidance on the dynamics involved in the transition from nurse to nurse manager. Sharing those experiences can be invaluable and may indeed shorten the new nurse manager’s learning curve.
And by the way, don’t allow the lack of a formal mentor program stop you from making a match. Think about how you might have benefited from a mentor, and just make it happen.
The best investment you can make in people is to analyze how well you are preparing and supporting those who take on the hard tasks of shifting into management. They are your front-line leaders who impact operations as much as your most senior staff. You should also strive to create a culture where it is okay to say no. If their heart isn’t in it, your fortunes won’t be either.
Dr. Lisa Aldisert, “3 Ways to Help Nurse Managers Transition into Leadership”, Beckers Hospital Review, April 10, 2017.