Ken Keller: Which person do I promote?


Dear Ken Keller,

I’ve got two employees that appear to be ready to be promoted into management. Do you have any thoughts on how I might decide which one is more likely to be a success? – Brian R.

Dear Brian:

As a young employee, I originally thought that an individual who was a great contributor was most likely to become a superstar manager because they had mastered the technical aspects of a job and the other parts of management could be picked up along the way. That idealism came to an end when I worked for a guy who was a jerk once he was promoted to being a manager.

The best advice I can provide to you was recently highlighted by a good friend of mine, Dave Baney, who writes a weekly missive on business and posts his columns on He shared this with me and his readers:

It is essential to identify the signs that an employee is ready to be promoted to a management position …

  1. They always exceed expectations: An employee that always goes above and beyond is a stand out. If these types of employees aren’t recognized they will seek employment elsewhere.
  2. They’re always accountable for their mistakes: This employee will take accountability if a deadline is missed usually asking how they could have handled it better and making a move it fix it.
  3. Helps teammates: This employee is willing to take a shift when needed, goes the extra mile and stays late to help the team finish the project regardless of any their after-work plans.
  4. Uses “us” and “we” instead of “I” and “me”: A character of a good manager is they always have a team mentality. This quality might be present on their first day, but it’s also something that can develop over time. Keep your eyes open for it!
  5. Solution identifier: A good potential manager is good at recognizing potential problems and immediately starts to find a solution.
  6. Already a manager but doesn’t know it: If you have an employee that helps with just about everything … including customer service, marketing, sales, administration, budgetary duties, new hire training, etc., they already have a hand in several processes necessary to run the company. They take pride in all they do and are very liked and trusted among all your staff.

I believe these are excellent standards to measure your two candidates against and you can likely use them for assessing your employees for future opportunities in management.

Dear Ken Keller,

I have been reading your columns for a long time and I appreciate the advice. Can you please share with me what you consider to be the best advice you can provide a business owner in 25 words or less? – Freddy G.

Dear Freddy,

Thanks for enjoying the column. If I had just one thing to share with a business owner, I would ask: Do you have a written plan for success and are you following through with it?

Most owners don’t have a written plan; fail to follow through and then wonder why they aren’t more successful. Fail to plan; plan to fail.

Ken Keller is a syndicated business columnist focused on the leadership needs of small and midsize closely held companies. Contact him at [email protected]. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of this media outlet.

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