Stop Promoting Functional Experts To Management

wake up

Hey – wake up! If you run a business or are responsible for running a division or department of a company listen up.
You’re doing it wrong!

You keep promoting the people who are good at the “function” of a job into a managerial role.

But they suck at the role of being a manager.

They just do what their subordinates do, but a little better. They aren’t just Level III, more experienced employees – they’re managers! And that means they manage. Yet few of them have been trained or groomed to be real, effective managers. And this problem is endemic in most companies. We fill upper level positions based on expertise in that function – not expertise in MANAGING that function and the people that support it.

As an example. I have a new post up over on HRExaminer where I talk about Dan Price who is famous (infamous?) for raising every employees’ salary at Gravity Payment Systems to $70,000 across the board. At that time he was lauded as a visionary and condemned as a socialist. And now, four months later, his company is doing poorly. Some important people have left, he’s being sued and has started renting his own house to make ends meet. Saying it isn’t going well is an understatement.

My commentary on HRExaminer boils down to this… anyone who knew about employee psychology and how people work, thrive, survive and die in organizations, would have seen this coming a mile away. Gravity Payments could have avoided this problem if someone in the planning or HR function was more aware of people issues – not functional ones. That is where the problem really resides.

I urge you to jump over and read the full article on HRExaminer and put your two cents into the mix.

And put down that promotion and back away. It is not the right decision. I’m 90% sure 60% of the time.

3 responses to “Stop Promoting Functional Experts To Management”

  1. i don’t think it’s this simple. you have to promote the functional experts..they will always be the ones with the most instantaneous credibility with the ones they are destined to lead. but you have to promote the ones who have the aptitude and intellectual capacity to learn how to be good managers. and then you have to help them be good managers. the problem is not with the people themselves; rather, it’s with how the organization prepares those people for their new role and paradigm and then how then support them thereafter.


    1. I think you have to be functionally literate – but not the best. That logic is why we continue to promote great sales people who fail at being great managers. My point is we prioritize expertise in the function over expertise – or closer to your point – aptitude for management. I’m not saying don’t promote experts – but let’s not use that as the pre-eminent criteria. EQ is much more a factor than IQ.

      I’d promote a functionally average person with high EQ over a functional expert all day long (assuming of course the expert isn’t the highest EQ person as well.)

      Can’t argue that we do little to prep and support managers. That is just bad planning – and bad management. Hey – where’d we get those bad managers? Oh yeah… we promoted them. Can we say vicious circle?

      Thanks for ready Charlie – always honored when you chime in!


  2. […] From Paul Hebert: Stop Promoting Functional Experts To Management […]


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