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Why ‘Failure’ often Follows Promotion

Posted by: Justin Byrne


This is a topic I’ve studied for many years and have discussed with many sales leaders and coaches, as it is a subject that absolutely intrigues me and is certainly something that happens within Sales more so than other functions.

There are indeed many books written on the subject and no doubt many opinions. The most commonly referred to line is that people are regularly ‘promoted to a level of incompetence’. But are they? I’m minded to think not. In fact, I think the most common reason for failure as a new manager is that individuals immediately change their behaviours the moment they’re rewarded with promotion.

Earlier this evening I visited my local gym for my daily dose of exercise. I’ve been using the same gym now for many years and one of the regular reception personnel has recently been promoted to ‘Center Manager’, a promotion she no doubt deserved. For at least 2 years she has greeted me personally with a friendly and genuine smile and asked how I am, as is common with all the staff at my chosen gym. When moving around the facility she regularly stopped to ask how people were and engaged in friendly and appropriate conversation.

Yet since her promotion, I’m not she’s smiled once at a guest and has certainly reduced engagement with her clientele. I therefore wonder whether the reason for failure after promotion is that, simply, we stop behaving in the way we did that led to our promotion in the first place! Perhaps while working towards the reward we worked harder, were more engaging, complained less and got involved more. Whereas, once the reward is received, we change our behaviour and results change too. Therefore, we’re not promoted to a level of incompetence – we just choose not to be competent after promotion!

Today’s lesson for me, personally? Don’t forget how I got myself to where I am today – as it’s probably the same things (with further refinement) that will get me where I’m going tomorrow!

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