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The question

One of my direct reports has been trying to get a promotion to a management role for years. He does well in his current role and meets expectations, but I don’t see his potential for a leadership position. He gets frustrated easily and does not take criticism well. He has worked under me for three years so I’m not confident about the potential for change. My colleagues in management and HR, who also have worked with this employee, agree with me. Honestly, I think his best chances at becoming a manager are starting fresh with a new company and working his way up there. Should I say something to him? What’s the best way for me to navigate this situation as his supervisor?

The first answer

Carine Lacroix, founder and CEO, Reneshone Corp., Toronto

Promoting someone is a tough call every leader must make at some point. Concern about your employee’s easy frustration and susceptibility to criticism is legitimate. Indeed, this is not characteristic of effective leaders. But the person starting with a new company and not knowing his blind spots could be counterproductive.

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You must have an honest conversation with him to help him discover the impact of his attitude on others, and how to transform for his own good. Here’s what I suggest.

Start by praising what he brought to the company and his value for the team. Say what you like about him, especially his strengths. Be specific and give concrete examples. Such a conversation is empowering.

Show you want to help him with his career and ask why he wants to become a manager. Is his “why” bigger than a better paycheque or new job title? You might discover someone who is passionate and will do everything to reach his goal.

We all make mistakes. Be authentic and talk about your own before providing constructive feedback about his temperament. The key is not to disempower him. What was the impact of your mistakes on coworkers or employees? Did someone resign or complain? Tell him this, then share your constructive feedback about him. Be specific and suggest ways to improve. Together, you could decide he needs to work with a professional coach or do something else.

Effective leaders always try everything to help their employees grow.

The second answer

Zuleika Sgro, vice-president of people, Saje Natural Wellness, Vancouver and Toronto

Your direct and clear feedback to your team member is what I would prioritize in this situation. I would first ensure he is clear on what is holding him back from his growth to a leadership position. Have you given him the feedback clearly? If so, does he acknowledge it and has he expressed he would be willing to work on his growth in these areas?

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If this is the case, I would work with him to come up with a development plan for how he can grow his competencies in these areas. Encourage him to self-study and give him real-time feedback when you see him making improvements and when he is going backwards, so he can recognize his behaviour in the moment. This is often the most impactful feedback for change in behaviour instead of waiting until a year-end review.

In parallel to this feedback, I would clearly outline for him the capabilities and qualities that a leader needs in your organization to succeed. This will help him bridge where he needs to do the work and understand why. Rather than engaging in any conversations about another employer, I would really focus on clearly outlining what’s possible where he is today and what isn’t based on the above, and ultimately let him decide whether he is willing and able to do the work to improve in these areas.

Have a question for our experts? Send an email to NineToFive@globeandmail.com with ‘Nine to Five’ in the subject line. E-mails without the correct subject line may not be answered.

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