Is past performance the best indicator of future results? What if we are talking about promoting the best sales rep in your company into an executive leadership role?

From a recent Harvard Business Review article, most organizations continue to promote people into leadership roles assuming the attributes that made them successful as an individual performer will carry them to success even when their responsibilities materially change.

Sound familiar? The Peter Principle states that most competent people are promoted until they reach a position beyond their skill level and…they stop growing.

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In other words, Laurence Peter says, “In time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties.”

When people are promoted to, or hired into, roles they are not fit for, organizations suffer. Sales goals are missed, turnover increases and the executives who awarded the promotion or championed the hire are having to work outside of their own role to make up for the shortfalls. That’s not how I want to spend my evenings and weekends!

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Worse, now we have to explain those decisions to our Board or boss…

Since an executive’s number one priority is building a top-performing team, maybe it is past time for organizations to change the way they identify, attract and select talent?

Instead of evolving with the market, most companies still use the old mind-numbing job description, post it to some job boards, farm it out to some recruiters who re-purpose it and post it to the same job boards and then pray that someone delivers anyone who checks enough boxes to qualify for an interview. Maybe then someone else will throw their hands up and settle for the “best available” candidate but probably not the best candidate in the talent pool. After praying for that, don’t forget to pray that your offer is not declined but that is another topic…

Let me tell you, this can change, and it ought to change.

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You can change it. Start by putting more resources into defining the competencies necessary to succeed at the next level. If a top-performing individual contributor does not have them – don’t promote or hire them…yet! Help them get clear on what they need to develop in order to be a next-level performer but don’t put them in over their heads and expect new competencies to blossom.

Second, map out your organization’s cultural DNA. These are the hard-coded attributes that drive performance in leadership roles within your organization, not generic “hope trope”. Things like grit, resourcefulness, innovative thinking, team building, flexibility and such are great…but have you dug into when/where/how a candidate has demonstrated those qualities AND does it align with your cultural DNA?

Third, you can’t settle for candidates who are raising a flag saying, “hire me!” You have to map and understand your marketplace and clearly communicate your employer value proposition to the talent pool. The best performers are not hanging out on street corners. You are going to have to put the time and effort into prying them away from their current roles where they are happily outperforming their peer group.

Building a top-performing team is not easy but it is worth it. Imagine having a team so strong that their performance lifts you to your next career step and gives your weekends back to you. That is what you need to drive your organization forward.

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