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3 Steps to Talent Retention When Denying a Promotion

Leadership Blog

My leadership blog is all about helping current and emerging leaders learn how to transform difficult conversations and dysfunctional workplace relationships into positive and productive ones.

Brie Barker

3 Steps to Retaining Top Talent When Denying a Promotion

by | Leadership Development

This past weekend, my son, Finley, went to try-out for his Little League club’s “A” team for summer baseball.  There were about 30 kids at the try-outs and only the top 12 are chosen.  The kids who don’t make the “A” team join a pool of about another 110 kids and they’re all divided into several, evenly balanced, “B” teams.

/

The head coach, Paul, is everything you want as a coach for your kid.  He’s extremely passionate and knowledgeable about baseball, he stresses good sportsmanship and, while he coaches to win, he always sees his primary role as ensuring the kids are continually developing their skills and having fun.
/
At the end of the try-outs, while Paul got to make 12 kids very happy by telling them they made the team, he also had the unenvious task of telling 17 kids that they didn’t make the team — including my son, Finley.
/
Now here’s the thing … Finley is a very gifted athlete with hand-eye coordination and spacial skills that are well beyond his age.
/

For the record, this has been widely corroborated beyond his proud papa!

/
He also absolutely loves to play baseball.
/
But Finley is only 8-years old and this is his first year in the minor division, which means he’s playing with kids who are as old as 11.  He’s also small for his age so the reality is that he just doesn’t have the size and strength that the older kids do, kids who also have a year or two more experience than him.
/
Coach Paul believes that Finley will likely become one of the club’s best players and wants him to stick around.  The way in which he communicates to Finley that he didn’t make the “A” team is a key factor in whether or not he’ll want to.
/
If you’re one of your organization’s leaders or HR executives, this scenario resonates all too much.  If you’re like your brethren that I speak with, you’d probably tell me that retaining top talent is definitely one of your biggest concerns and challenges.
/
All you need to do is replace my 8-year old Boston Red Sox hopeful with one of your organization’s rising stars who’s put in for a promotion and you and Coach Paul are in the same ballpark.
/
When you have to deny that person a promotion, be it because they need some further development and experience or that next rung of the ladder is just too crowded right now, you need to communicate this carefully if you don’t want them to pack up and seek greener pastures.

/


/

Here are the three steps to follow when you’re denying a promotion to a rising star that you want to ensure you keep on your team …

/


/

#1 — Pre-conversation

/
Remind yourself that they’re likely to be highly disappointed; they were seeking the promotion as a vehicle to obtain things that are important to them.
/
Choose a private setting where the person will feel free to express themselves, i.e. without being seen or overheard by others.
/
Schedule the meeting as soon as possible, as they are likely anxious to know the outcome.  Early in the week is best.
/
Don’t schedule the meeting close to the weekend, a special event of the person’s or just prior to their vacation.  A Monday or Tuesday would be ideal.  The importance of this relates to Step 3.

/

#2 — During the Conversation

/

Talk about the present situation:

/
Get to the point right away and, with empathy, tell them,
“Not all of the conditions were right at this time for us to be able to give you the promotion.”  
This is saying it’s the conditions that weren’t right, not that there was something wrong with them.  This lands very differently from the standard “You’re not getting the promotion.”
/
Say something like,
“It’s important to me that you know what I mean by that, [NAME], because I really appreciate everything you contribute to around here.  Can I share with you what shaped the decision?”  
This feels respectful and starts to shift the tone right away by reinforcing that they’re valued.  Ensure you answer all their questions.
/

Talk about the future:

/
Revisit and reaffirm what their goals and aspirations are within your organization, along with understanding what motivates them.
/
Be consultative in talking about what they think their strengths are and what they could improve upon in terms of advancing to that next step in their career at your organization.  Use open-ended questions like,
“What things do you think you could bolster to putting yourself in an even more favourable position for a promotion?”
/
Say,
“I’d really like to help you achieve your goal of moving up to the next level here, [NAME].  How would you feel about us working together on a specific action plan towards making that happen?”
This lets them know you envision them progressing in the company and the question empowers them to step into that and commit to focusing on the future.
/
Set the stage for the next step:
“Let’s set a time to get together at the end of the week to start crafting your development plan.  Over the next few days, let’s both make sure we take some time to brainstorm some initial ideas on what things you could do on your own and what specific development opportunities we could create for you.  How does that sound, [NAME]?”
This reaffirms you’re both making a commitment to this. This also gets them to focus on their future in your organization right away and scheduling the first action plan meeting before the end of that first week has them going into the weekend with concrete proof that you truly do believe in their future career goals.

/

#3 — Post-Conversation

/
Be sure you keep your commitments to them in being active in their development.
/
Ensure you schedule regular check-ins to see how things are progressing and if either of you think their action plan needs any adjustments along the way.
/

/

In today’s marketplace, you just can’t afford to lose your top talent.  

/
Following the specifics in the above 3 steps will do a lot to ensure you retain your rising stars in the wake of denying them a promotion.
/
I’ll end with a tip-of-the-cap to Coach Paul … his good communication skills have resulted in him securing a deep farm team for the club’s future success — and Finley is an enthusiastic part of it.
/

Play ball!

/
Have a productive and enjoyable day!
/
— Brie

Blog Post

3 Steps to Retaining Top Talent When Denying a Promotion

by | Leadership Development

This past weekend, my son, Finley, went to try-out for his Little League club’s “A” team for summer baseball.  There were about 30 kids at the try-outs and only the top 12 are chosen.  The kids who don’t make the “A” team join a pool of about another 110 kids and they’re all divided into several, evenly balanced, “B” teams.

/

The head coach, Paul, is everything you want as a coach for your kid.  He’s extremely passionate and knowledgeable about baseball, he stresses good sportsmanship and, while he coaches to win, he always sees his primary role as ensuring the kids are continually developing their skills and having fun.
/
At the end of the try-outs, while Paul got to make 12 kids very happy by telling them they made the team, he also had the unenvious task of telling 17 kids that they didn’t make the team — including my son, Finley.
/
Now here’s the thing … Finley is a very gifted athlete with hand-eye coordination and spacial skills that are well beyond his age.
/

For the record, this has been widely corroborated beyond his proud papa!

/
He also absolutely loves to play baseball.
/
But Finley is only 8-years old and this is his first year in the minor division, which means he’s playing with kids who are as old as 11.  He’s also small for his age so the reality is that he just doesn’t have the size and strength that the older kids do, kids who also have a year or two more experience than him.
/
Coach Paul believes that Finley will likely become one of the club’s best players and wants him to stick around.  The way in which he communicates to Finley that he didn’t make the “A” team is a key factor in whether or not he’ll want to.
/
If you’re one of your organization’s leaders or HR executives, this scenario resonates all too much.  If you’re like your brethren that I speak with, you’d probably tell me that retaining top talent is definitely one of your biggest concerns and challenges.
/
All you need to do is replace my 8-year old Boston Red Sox hopeful with one of your organization’s rising stars who’s put in for a promotion and you and Coach Paul are in the same ballpark.
/
When you have to deny that person a promotion, be it because they need some further development and experience or that next rung of the ladder is just too crowded right now, you need to communicate this carefully if you don’t want them to pack up and seek greener pastures.

/


/

Here are the three steps to follow when you’re denying a promotion to a rising star that you want to ensure you keep on your team …

/


/

#1 — Pre-conversation

/

/ Remind yourself that they’re likely to be highly disappointed; they were seeking the promotion as a vehicle to obtain things that are important to them.

/

/ Choose a private setting where the person will feel free to express themselves, i.e. without being seen or overheard by others.

/

/ Schedule the meeting as soon as possible, as they are likely anxious to know the outcome.  Early in the week is best.

/

/ Don’t schedule the meeting close to the weekend, a special event of the person’s or just prior to their vacation.  A Monday or Tuesday would be ideal.  The importance of this relates to Step 3.

/

#2 — During the Conversation

/

Talk about the present situation:

/
Get to the point right away and, with empathy, tell them,
“Not all of the conditions were right at this time for us to be able to give you the promotion.”  
This is saying it’s the conditions that weren’t right, not that there was something wrong with them.  This lands very differently from the standard “You’re not getting the promotion.”

/

/ Say something like,
“It’s important to me that you know what I mean by that, [NAME], because I really appreciate everything you contribute to around here.  Can I share with you what shaped the decision?”
This feels respectful and starts to shift the tone right away by reinforcing that they’re valued.  Ensure you answer all their questions.
/

Talk about the future:

/
/ Revisit and reaffirm what their goals and aspirations are within your organization, along with understanding what motivates them.
/
/ Be consultative in talking about what they think their strengths are and what they could improve upon in terms of advancing to that next step in their career at your organization.  Use open-ended questions like,
“What things do you think you could bolster to putting yourself in an even more favourable position for a promotion?”
/
/ Say,
“I’d really like to help you achieve your goal of moving up to the next level here, [NAME].  How would you feel about us working together on a specific action plan towards making that happen?”
This lets them know you envision them progressing in the company and the question empowers them to step into that and commit to focusing on the future.
/
/ Set the stage for the next step:
“Let’s set a time to get together at the end of the week to start crafting your development plan.  Over the next few days, let’s both make sure we take some time to brainstorm some initial ideas on what things you could do on your own and what specific development opportunities we could create for you.  How does that sound, [NAME]?”
This reaffirms you’re both making a commitment to this. This also gets them to focus on their future in your organization right away and scheduling the first action plan meeting before the end of that first week has them going into the weekend with concrete proof that you truly do believe in their future career goals.

/

#3 — Post-Conversation

/

/ Be sure you keep your commitments to them in being active in their development.

/

/ Ensure you schedule regular check-ins to see how things are progressing and if either of you think their action plan needs any adjustments along the way.
/

/

In today’s marketplace, you just can’t afford to lose your top talent.  

/

Following the specifics in the above 3 steps will do a lot to ensure you retain your rising stars in the wake of denying them a promotion.
/
I’ll end with a tip-of-the-cap to Coach Paul … his good communication skills have resulted in him securing a deep farm team for the club’s future success — and Finley is an enthusiastic part of it.

/

Play ball!

/
Have a productive and enjoyable day!
/
— Brie
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