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Keep Promoting the Wrong People

"We've known about the dangers of over-promotion for at least the last thirty years (the book, The Peter Principle, which described how most people are promoted to their level of incompetence, was published in 1960), so why do we keep doing it?

Because we want to give people the chance to grow? Because we don't want people to stagnate in their roles? Because we want to offer them a career? Because we want to reward them for work well done?

No doubt we are influenced by all these sensible intentions. Yet, none of them necessarily entails promoting the person. People can grow their careers and receive praise for good work without promotion. And so the question remains: When it comes to development, career growth, or praise, why do we so often resort to moving the person up the ladder? Unless we can get to the heart of this, thirty years from now, the Peter Principle will be as deeply ingrained in organisations as it is today, millions of employees will feel miscast, and organisations everywhere will be the weaker for it."

This was written in 2000. And here we are today with five decades of data telling us about our wrongdoing, yet, we keep marching ahead. Why?

Because we understand that people crave prestige, but we make a big mistake by thinking that everyone craves the same kind of prestige. We leave people with no choice but to take on higher and higher roles despite being suitable for them.

A Strengths-Based organisation avoids this by focusing on three areas:

  • Building different ladders, each with three rungs: Good, Great, and Superb. Superb is Lionel Messi superb, the pinnacle of performance that comes with great prestige upon achievement. Not promotion, but recognition of talent, strengths, performance, you call it as you want. This can only be achieved if you invest in developing individuals' strengths.

  • Giving people the incentive to climb and achieve Superb performance without promotion requires creativity. Remember you are aiming for recognition of performance that everybody can see all the time. Why do you think Concierge guys are so proud wearing their crossed golden key? It showcases their level of knowledge and expertise, and guess what! They don't want a promotion or do anything else. You may do that simply by adding something like senior or expert to their title without the responsibilities of the next role.

  • Change your pay structure that recognises the different levels of performance. The biggest reason people want promotion is pay; the second is prestige. So if we offer more money based on performance, we can solve that problem.

There are many ways of making people feel that they are growing, appreciated, and recognised, but we need to look at organisations very differently. Otherwise, somebody will be writing the same article using eight deceased of data about the nonsense of promotion in thirty years.

PS: This would also solve many areas of poor management and leadership. They are poor because we force people to take up those positions by failing to provide alternatives for achieving prestige and earning more money.

Understand the Strengths-Based approach by starting with your strengths. Be careful, it may tell you that you are in the wrong job.

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