Sparrow Says - Over-promoting people before they are ready

Greg Graham
By Greg Graham | 15 December 2021
Greg Graham, AKA Sparrow.

A career advice column from Greg Graham. Email and put "SPARROW" in the subject line to ask a question.

Reader’s question: I’m an Account Director in a creative agency and during lockdown I enrolled in several online marketing & leadership courses. I have paid for these myself and wanted to use any available time more effectively and foster my career.  

It’s become quite obvious to me that the best practices in leadership I’m learning about I’m not seeing from my current boss at the agency. What do I do about this and should I consider moving on next year & join the Great Resignation?   

Sparrow says:

I’m proud of you for taking the initiative during lockdowns to develop your skills and further your career. I would approach your leader and enquire if the company would consider reimbursing some of your investment in the training (hopefully this is a positive outcome). If they don’t, I think this sends a signal that maybe they aren’t walking the talk around training and development and nurturing their talent.

Your experience with your boss is a common issue in the industry at the moment, where I believe we are over-promoting people into leadership positions before they are ready – and then not giving them the help and support to succeed. I’m a big believer in promoting from within – even if it’s a bit early – but that means the company has a responsibility to ensure the person has a coach, mentor, development plan, plus continuous support so they are set up for leadership success.

At the start of the pandemic some agencies dropped training and development budgets, and diverted the money straight to the bottom line. That’s not a smart long-term strategy, particularly since retention is so vital in the face of the ongoing talent shortage. Any business that doesn't invest in its people now for future success will suffer the consequences.

As far as your boss is concerned, have you considered giving them “The Gift?’’ By that, I mean the gift of feedback. I suggest bringing this up with them and being sensitive in how you frame it. Always start with the positives and the actions they are doing well as your leader, then drill down and be very specific around areas they could improve in the new year. Keep it very rational and refer to any learnings from the courses that would really help you, the team and your clients.

If you see no change in Q1 2022, then I suggest you talk to your People & Culture leader to explore if there are any other opportunities within the agency for you in a new client team with stronger leadership. With agencies mindful of the Great Resignation (or the Great Reshuffle), they would be extremely keen to keep the best talent and I’m sure they would find another great role for someone as talented as you.

Over the holiday season, when you are considering your new year’s resolutions, take the time to reflect on what you truly want and need from an agency leader moving forward. Knowing what great leadership looks like for you, and how it will enable you to thrive in the future, can be helpful in articulating that to your leader through The Gift of feedback.

In doing so, keep in mind that your boss may have been thrown in the deep end themselves with very little support or education. Empathy is always important.

I know I sound like a broken record, but as an industry we have to get better at nurturing, developing and training at all levels – especially our leaders.

Greg (Sparrow) Graham: Coach/Trainer/Pitch Doctor & Advisor @ The Nest Consultancy 


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