I’ve never served in the armed forces but I have been told on many occasions that “Sergeants run the Army”, or to put it another way First-Line Managers (Supervisors) (FLM’s) run the organisation. I have however, had many years experience of Small to Medium Enterprises (SME’s) and how they choose and develop (or not) their FLM’s, and I can tell you that more often than not it’s not a practice grounded in data and objective assessments. It’s often the case of grounded in the ‘he’s a good lad’ assessment. In other words the ‘good lad’ in question (often nothing like as young as a ‘lad’ and almost exclusively male!) has worked out the happy buttons of the boss and is pushing away on them.

Your view on this method may vary from ‘it works well for us, so don’t rock the boat’ to ‘that’s plainly nothing like good enough’, or someplace in between.

Aside from the obvious casual (and often less than casual) discriminatory overtones of this approach it does beg the question when in an age of data that this is in any way an acceptable or appropriate method of choosing possibly the most important managers in your organisation. A more structured approach may come to the same conclusion, that the person you feel you want in the position is the right person but it will provide you with evidence and maybe even a starting point for performance improvement for the individual concerned. Just think of the long-term benefit that would bring to the team and organisation!

A more structured approach will lead to the right person in the right job and development path for them to follow. The individual wins, they have the job and a development path, the organisation wins, the job gets done by the most appropriate person assigned to it and you win, you don’t have to constantly cover for under-performance or look for a replacement when the person you’ve chosen doesn’t work out so well.

What you should be looking for;


  • Leading People – the individual should have an understanding of differing leadership styles, when to use them and how a coaching style benefits the team. They should be able to describe how they contribute positively to the organisational culture, enhance diversity and promote equality of opportunity
  • Manage People – they should be able to motivate teams whilst remaining compliant to legal and statutory requirements and organisational policies
  • Building Relationships & Communicating – they should be able to work across functions to promote achievement of all interested parties needs. They must also be able to manage and resolve conflict situations effectively

Delivering Results

  • Operational Management – be able to align operational plans to the organisational strategy whilst being aware of changes in circumstances and acting accordingly
  • Project Management – have a grasp on the timelines, understand resource allocation, identify risks and mitigation
  • Finance – be able to demonstrate they act within the rules of governance and deliver value for money

Personal Effectiveness

  • Self Awareness – be perceptive about their own preferences, bias, learning styles and management style
  • Decision Making – understand the data, able to analyse results and act accordingly. Able to prioritize actions according to the time available


  • Takes Responsibility – demonstrable resilience and accountability. Has a drive to achieve the desired results and is able to manage in sometimes difficult situations
  • Inclusive – an open manner, approachable, authentic and able to build trust from others. Seeks out the views of others
  • Flexible – uses creative problem solving to overcome obstacles to progress. Shows innovation and enterprise when seeking to achieve team and organisational needs
  • Professionalism – is an example to be followed, open and fair when making assessments, is consistent and works to promote organisational values

What are you going to do now?

So you’ve read through the above list and you’ll have formed an opinion on if you think this approach is the right one for you or not. Maybe you’re one of those leaders who uses the ‘he’s a good lad’ style of promotion and it works for you. I’m not here to judge, but I offer you a strategy to give you the very best opportunity to promote the best, assign work effectively to the most qualified and competent people. I also provide you with the jump-off point for people development. You may also find that by using the above list that you don’t actually have an appropriate candidate on staff and you need to hire an outsider. The list provides a starter for how you’re going to choose and interview potential new hires.

All organisational activities and I include appointment of staff, and training and development, and achievement of goals, and meeting statutory and regulatory and organisational needs, and fairness and equality and diversity… must all be streamlined to meet the overall organisational purpose. Anything else is just waste, a waste of time, of resources, of finances, of talent…

So rather than thinking you’re right and you know best for who should be promoted to a role, often an important role, I propose you ask a question of yourself;

How do you know you’re making the best decision?

Use the above list or add to it if you like and you have an organised and repeatable approach to hiring staff either from within or from outside your organisation. You have a jump-off point for staff development if you don’t get all of the attributes you need. and you have a starter for how you’re going to conduct interviews for new hires.

If all of the above makes some sense to you but you just don’t know how to get started then please get in touch at info@isosyst.co.uk with you inquiry.

Philip Dawson MBA – Organisational Consultant & Systems Thinker – 08-Jan-2020

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