Hire externally or internally promote?

When trying to find someone to fill a vacant senior leadership or management position, which is best?  Should you hire in someone from outside the organisation who has a good track record performing a similar role elsewhere or should you promote someone internally, someone who knows the organisation well already.  Unfortunately there isn’t a simple answer; both have pros and cons.

Hire externally or internally promote?Hiring in someone new from outside has the advantage that you can try and get someone who is experienced in a similar role and who will bring knowledge and ideas from other organisations.  However an outsider also faces tough challenges that hiring companies do not always appreciate.  The types of challenges faced on day one in a new organisation are: they don’t know the organisation and don’t have knowledge of the informal networks within the organisation; they may be viewed as an outsider; they do not know the corporate culture and what is expected of them within that culture; and they lack an internal track record and potentially lack credibility or conversely might be expected to solve and contribute far more than is possible.

The obvious solution to the above challenges is to promote internally; those promoted from within the organisation already know the organisation, have established networks and understand the culture.  However internally promoted candidates face different challenges.  On taking up the new position they have to make sure they rid themselves of their old role.  Even though they may have built up credibility in their previous role they may need to re-earn it in the new role.  And however much they feel they have made the psychological transition from the old role, it is only when those around them in the organisation, in both the old and the new role, accept them in the new role, that they will have truly made the transition and left the baggage of the old role behind.  Good succession planning and talent management need to be in place to prepare suitable candidates for internal promotions.  If the necessary preparation has not taken place then the candidate is unlikely to have the skills and knowledge required to quickly transition into the new role.

Whether the newly appointed person comes from within or without the organisation, the possibility of success can be greatly enhanced if the organisation provides the necessary support in terms of mentoring and transitional coaching over the first three to six months.  Unfortunately many companies simply show the new person to their desk, give them a laptop and mobile phone, show them where the coffee machine is and tell them what needs to be finished by the end of the week.  The risks of not providing good support and transitional coaching are that new appointees: come up with assumptions and answers which may or may not be suitable; alienate people; assume what worked elsewhere will work here; miss existing opportunities (the low hanging fruit); also miss ticking time-bombs; and fail to gain consensus of those around them.

Transitional Coaching, sometimes called Onboarding Coaching for new recruits, can provide the catalyst for the new leader to fully assess not only what is urgent, but also what is important for the medium and longer term.  It allows them to plan their time wisely to focus on what is needed when.

Do you think you would have flourished quicker in your role if you’d had a coach to help you to plan, prioritise and execute the steps and actions required to assure a successful transition?

Mike Jones specialises in onboarding coaching and leadership development.  If you would like to improve your leadership skills call him now on +44 (0)1908 509088 or email mike@potentialmatters.co.uk.

About Mike Jones

Mike Jones is an executive coach specialising in developing Emotional Intelligence through transitional and performance coaching. You can contact him directly on +44(0)7747 011 589 or via mike@potentialmatters.co.uk

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