how to promote leaders who build a positive culture

How to Promote Leaders Who Build a Positive Culture

Promote leaders who show their commitment to relationships and results.

One of the most important leadership decisions you’ll ever make is the choice to promote someone into a leadership role. Who you promote into leadership sends a powerful message of what matters most in your organization. Promote leaders aligned with your culture and you’ll build momentum. Get this wrong, and you undo all the good you’ve done.

It’s sobering to consider: all of your values, everything your company stands for, the major day-to-day experience of the organization – all of it …

… is experienced by an employee through their immediate supervisor.

And, the data continue to suggest that for the vast majority of employees, that experience is not a good one.

Promote Leaders with Culture-Building Motivation

The first place to focus your attention is motivation: why does the person you’re considering promoting want to lead?

There are five common reasons people seek out promotions to management and leadership roles. We call these the 5 Ps of Leadership Motivation. Here are the first three:

  1. Power—the perception of control
  2. Paycheck—the financial incentives
  3. Pride—the prestige they feel that comes with a title

There is nothing inherently wrong with these motivations. They’re human nature.

The challenge is that people who want to lead primarily for these three reasons won’t succeed.

The desires for power, more money, or prestige are selfish motivations. They’re about the person, not their team or the work. A leader who shows up every day to fulfill those motivations won’t have influence with their people.

People who take leadership roles for these reasons often experience frustration. The power is an illusion, the increased pay rarely feels worth the additional responsibilities, and the prestige of a title isn’t a lasting source of self-esteem. They can’t provide the hope their people need.

These managers either decide it’s not for them, or they go after the next promotion, thinking “this will be the one.”

The final two motivations are different:

  1. Purpose—the reason for the work, the results the team exists to achieve
  2. People—supporting, developing, and bringing people together as a team

Leaders who focus on Purpose or People naturally have more influence. They connect to their team and help everyone achieve more than they could individually. People are better off for having worked with these leaders.

Promote Leaders who Show Ability

After motivation, the next step is to make sure they have the core competencies to succeed in the role. Look for people with the ability to:

  • Do their core work with credibility and competence
  • Influence others without relying on formal authority
  • Use power judiciously
  • Have a difficult conversation when needed

There are many more leadership and management skills to master, but these fundamental abilities allow a newly promoted person to learn while they lead.

Finding Candidates with the Motivation and Ability to Lead Well

As with any position, the best candidates are those who already demonstrate core competencies. You can look for high potential leaders in action learning projects, interdepartmental teams, committees, ad hoc projects, interim-assignments when a supervisor is absent, and employee-sponsored initiatives.

These opportunities can reveal leadership motivations while giving growing leaders a chance to practice influence without a formal title. You can also observe how they use the limited authority that these roles afford. Can they be trusted with power? Do they focus on the purpose and build relationships?

Leadership development programs also provide a great chance to see who is serious about the opportunity to lead. If you’re using a 9-box succession planning strategy, you can include these motivations and abilities in your calibration discussions.

Finally, an excellent litmus test is: “Would I want my child working for this person?”

Your Turn

When you promote leaders you either build or bust your culture. We’d love to hear from you: How do you ensure you develop and promote leaders who build a positive culture?

See Also: 9 Creative Ways to Develop your Managers

Three Connections That Energize Every Great Leader

Three Connections That Energize Every Great Leader

Let’s face it, leadership is hard. Every great leader faces this reality.

You give it everything you have, but sometimes, it feels like it’s just not enough. When that happens though, here’s what you have to tell yourself…

You’re not alone.

Or, I should say…you don’t have to be.

When I was in San Francisco to deliver a keynote, I visited the famous California Redwoods. Standing beside the tallest living things on the planet was astounding.

Some them are thousands of years old. I saw the tallest tree–tall as a 36 story building with a trunk that would take ten or twelve people to encircle. Wow!

When I returned to my hotel that night, I went online to learn more about these trees. Specifically, I wanted to know about their roots. The roots I had seen were shallow and short.

What I found surprised me.

I expected the redwoods to have deep root systems, but they don’t. Their roots only go down five or six feet…but they extend outward 100 feet. In fact, the roots of nearby trees entangle, connect, and even fuse with one another. Together, the trees anchor one another through thousands of years of storms, wind, and floods.

Think about that for a moment–the tallest living things on earth don’t get tall by themselves.

They do it together.

As a leader, your trajectory and success – especially when things get tough – depend on your connections. There are three connections I’ve found that energize every great leader.

Connection #1: Your Team

Of course, you are there to serve your team.

But a funny thing happens when you do this. You will find your team also serves you. You don’t have to problem-solve on your own. You can rely on them.

Where you need to grow, they’ll challenge you. When your team trusts you, they’ll do amazing work with you. When you lead well, your team makes you stronger.

You can bring the tough questions to them and they’ll problem solve with you. They’ll hold you accountable. Karin and I have both had team members confront us when we weren’t leading up to our own standards.

Connection #2: A Community of Peers

Leadership is challenging work. It’s not easy and it doesn’t always feel good. It can be difficult, but extremely rewarding to find a good group of colleagues who will encourage you and help you problem-solve. If you’re looking for this kind of leadership community, consider our International Leadership Cohort of people just like you who are committed achieving breakthrough results – without losing their soul.

In addition to mutual encouragement and problem-solving, you also benefit from time spent with people outside the “bubble” of your organization. You’ll see your own situations with fresh eyes and better perspective.

Connection #3: A Mentor or Coach

Who is helping you get better?
Many leaders have a series of mentors and coaches over their lifetime…but it’s your responsibility to find them.

Recently, I saw an aspiring great leader sit back on a social media forum and post something like, “Hey, I really wish you’d mentor me!” It was a generic comment that felt needy and as if he were a victim, powerless to help himself.

Most mentors won’t respond to that sort of energy. You want to find people who are farther down the road, who are doing what you want to do or have the kind of influence you want to have, and then approach them with a specific and actionable request.

You might say, “I’ve noticed you are very effective at cross-departmental relationships and problem-solving. I’ve been challenged in this area and have some specific questions I think you could help with. Would you be willing to mentor me in this? You’ll find that I take your suggestions seriously and put them into practice as soon as possible.”

Accept their answer. If they say yes and have a particular way they want to work, go with it, and follow through. If they say no, honor that too. The chemistry must be there for mentoring relationships to work.

There are also times you’ll want to rely on a coach. Coaches can provide targeted, objective feedback and skill-training to shorten your learning curve and help you make rapid progress with your leadership challenges.

Your Turn

Remember, just like redwoods, a great leader gets to be great based on the strength of their connections to their team, to a community of colleagues, and with mentors and coaches.

Where do you need to connect?

Leave us a comment and share how you stay connected to your team, a community of leaders, and mentors & coaches who help you grow.