Karin’s Leadership Articles

He thinks he’s ready to be promoted. You don’t. You don’t want to crush his spirits, but he’s not listening. He blames you, the system, politics, and that crazy project you gave him last year. He’s a strong performer and a vital member of your team. You know he’ll get there, but only if he listens.

Tell the truth without crushing his soul.

7 Ways to Get Him to Listen

  1. Understand His Perspective – Uncover the source of his inflated perceptions. It’s likely that his strong performance is a factor. Perhaps he’s been told all along that he was on the fast track, and he’s been paying his “dues” through special assignments and maybe even relocation. Get him to share his perspective and offer yours.
  2. Compassionate Straight Talk – Share your point of view and offer support. “You’re not ready now, and here’s why. If you really want this, and are willing to listen and work hard, I’m all in to help.”
  3. Shadowing – Have him hang out with you for a day or two. Don’t hold back. Expose him to the political pressures, the late-night fire drills, the tough decisions. Every time I’ve done that I’ve heard, “I had no idea.” and sometimes, “I don’t want your job.”
  4. Skip Level Meeting – Encourage him to meet with your boss. Have her share what she looks for when hiring at your level. Ask her to share her perceptions on his strengths, and his developmental opportunities.
  5. Stories – Share your own career story. Be open about your disappointments. Help him take the long view.
  6. Expand His Scope – Most promotions involve a substantial increase in scope and scale. Find ways to increase challenge and expose him to broader pressures in his current role.
  7. Tangible Actions – It’s likely he’s heard the feedback before, but it didn’t feel actionable. No one knows what to do with “you lack political savvy.” Much better to say, “let’s work on building 5 new trusted connections in the next 6 months.” Nurturing self-awareness is a gift. Help others to see themselves as others see them. Help them grow into their powerful potential.

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. Ali Anani (@alianani15)

    Karin- your empathy is high. Your points reflect that. A disqualified person sees his right for promotion from his foggy perspective. Your points help in clearing the fog in a humanly, but determined way.
    I experienced this. Sometimes I found that the employee is not the right cut for the job. Moving him/her to where he/she belonged proved healthy over time.
    We have to remember that a pin can release an inflated person. So, we need to do that with empathy and that is what you do, Karin

    • letsgrowleaders

      Ali, Thanks so much. I so agree, that sometimes it’s about getting them into the right job so they can really blossom. Thanks as always for sharing.

  2. Steve Borek

    Ask him, if he were the hiring manager, what would be his advice to himself?

    When I work with a high potential, I ask questions to help co-create their endgame.

    • letsgrowleaders

      Steve, That’s an excellent provocative question.

  3. Jon Stolpe

    Wow! This is great and timely advice. I have an employee on my team who believes he is ready for the next level, and I’ve had to go through many of these tips myself. One thing I would add to the list is this – encourage the employee to interview for the higher level positions even though they may not yet be qualified. These interviews provide great experience and hopefully some perspective as they pursue their career goals. As managers, we need to be honest with our employees AND we need to look for ways to help them succeed. This does NOT however guarantee they will be ready for a promotion anytime soon (or perhaps ever).

  4. letsgrowleaders

    Jon, Totally agree with you. When I have a director opening in my organization, I always interview any manager that’s interested… even if I think they’re “not ready.” Going through the process (and the feedback) can be very important in their development.

  5. Bill Benoist

    To often, our attention remains focused on the 78% of the work force we read about that is disengaged. Although important, we cannot forget about our star performers.

    They’re our go-to group when something needs to get done – we count on them. However, your post is a great reminder that if we’re not there to coach and guide them along the way, they may not have the skills to move to the next level when the opportunity presents itself.

    • letsgrowleaders

      Bill, thanks for your great addition. Yes, it’s easy to take the go-tos for granted. Those folks are likely the most thirsty for stretch and development.

  6. Billy Blixt

    Great post Karin. My direct supervisor has been working with me on getting ready for that next position. One of the biggest helpers, for me, was the shadowing. Shadowing really opened my eyes to some of the daily action items that are hidden or not spoken about often. It was those tasks that really showed me what that “promotion” was all about. Thanks for sharing these other insights.

    • letsgrowleaders

      Billy, I’m so glad to hear that you manager is actively involved in supporting you in this way. Excited to hear about your shadowing experiencing. Thanks so much for sharing.

  7. Josh

    I love your point their about creating tangible goals that need to be attained.

    • letsgrowleaders

      Josh, Thanks. I do think that helps.

  8. LaRae Quy

    I love this post, Karin. Nurturing self-awareness really is a gift, and my only comment is that this young man is very lucky to have you in his life to help him make it to the next step!


    • letsgrowleaders

      LaRae, thanks so much as always for your kind comments.

  9. Alli Polin

    Each point here is strong. The only thing I’d add is one that I often hated when I was leading some truly exceptional people – I had to be willing to support them to have more visibility, and have others, above me see that they are ready when the time comes. Unfortunately (for me) that meant letting them go to other teams that allowed them to be in the spotlight instead of keeping them in their current position (as much as I wanted to!)

  10. letsgrowleaders

    Alli, Oh, I so agree… that part is bitter sweet. It’s like cutting off your right arm.

  11. Bonnie Mann, CPA (@bonniemann)

    I think we send high performers mixed messages. We spend time praising them about their job specifics and tell them they are doing great. When they asked to be promoted for that great work we tell them they don’t yet have the skills to move up. I think part of the message should be what they didn’t do and will need to do in the future to move up. Share with them how you are going teach them to do it so they will be ready to move up. I find that very often when I do this high performers are begging to do manager level work to prove they are good at it.

    • letsgrowleaders

      Bonnie, You raise such an important point. It’s so much better to provide an honest, full-picture assessment. High performers would rather know the truth and what else they must do to be ready.

Virtual Leadership Training Programs


Join the Let’s Grow Leaders community for free weekly leadership
insights, tools, and strategies you can use right away!

Where in the World are
Karin & David?

Other Related Posts