Four Questions to Ask When Considering a Promotion on Your Team


We work with many organizations that either don’t have a clear owner/leader for marketing efforts, or these responsibilities fall on an executive with many priorities and initiatives competing for their time. In these situations, a step towards sustainable marketing efforts may include hiring a leader for marketing — either internally or externally. When pursuing the route of promoting internally into marketing leadership, it’s crucial to ensure you have the right person in the seat — I have leveraged a helpful exercise over the years of managing and promoting that helps uncover just that.

I call this exercise “The Four Questions.” We use this framework when we review internal talent for promotion opportunities, particularly with leadership roles. The number one question that I get from employees who have aspirations for the next big step in their career is “How do you (or I) know I am ready?” I have been in the people business since 1989, and if I had a dollar for every time I heard this question, I would be rich. That also means I have had a lot of time to think about the answer and over time I came to the conclusion that there are four critical questions in making the determination that someone is ready to take on bigger responsibilities. These four questions ask nothing about the individual’s tactical ability to DO the job. However, the analysis of tactical capability is implicit in how these questions are answered.

As you add to and elevate your team, these questions can help decipher if your direct report—and you—are ready for the next step.

The Four Questions

Do they make my job easier?

This is most important. If you are spending time solving for them, fixing things for them, answering questions that they can find the answers to on their own, doing things they should be doing—then they are not making your job easier. You should be able to easily delegate to this person, and ask them for their advice and input because you find it valuable and they proactively get things done to assist without having to be asked.


Do they work independently?

If you are still making decisions for them, managing their work or workload, having hard conversations with them or for them, fixing their mistakes, or having to micromanage any part of their work, then they are not ready.


Do they come to the table with a solutions-first mindset (vs problem-first)?

This is key. Can you count on them to solve problems both for themselves and for your team? Do they throw topics on your meetings stating problems without possible solutions? Do they take part in the solving conversation and actions? Do they help others to solve?


Is it obvious that they should sit in that role?

When you announce the promotion, is anyone confused by the decision? Or do people just nod and agree that this is the right and logical next step for them?


Keep It Simple

This process is not a secret in our company. We share these questions proactively with any employee seeking clarity about their path to the next level. We use this as a conversation piece AND a development guide to assist them in their journey. I use this as a fundamental training topic for our Leadership Academy — our internal process for helping find and develop leaders in the organization. I even use these same guidelines with my own kids when we talk about their own personal and professional development.

One important note on this approach. It requires your leadership to invest in the journey which includes hard conversations, intentional development in these areas, taking risks, making it safe to fail, continuous learning, and dedication to witnessing and acknowledging achievement in these areas.

Only four questions may seem too simplistic for something like a promotion, particularly into leadership roles. Try it – I dare you. And let me know how it goes. Companies have a tendency to make people processes entirely too complex. Our performance assessments get longer, our hiring process gets more complex, our employee development process becomes cumbersome and we think that makes them better. I, on the other hand, will stick to the advice from Albert Einstein. ‘Genius is making complex ideas simple, not making simple ideas complex.


Karen Seketa has been matching people to positions for years, and she's the one who finds all the superstars that populate the Element Three family. She's been here almost since the beginning, and if you ask her, she'll tell you it was the best decision she ever made.

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