The natural order of things is that you work hard, become proficient in what you do, and then get promoted to management, right? That’s how companies often work, and while sometimes it’s an effective strategy, it fails miserably in many cases. Why? Because “managing” is not like “doing.”

What does that mean? Well, let’s say you’re really good with customers—have a great rapport, and they trust you. You work quickly and accurately, and people praise your work. You’re reliable and hard working, and the business would be better off if everyone in the field worked as you do.

Different Jobs, Different Skills

But, are you good at training others? What about paperwork? What about handling sensitive issues, like requests for leaves of absences and coaching someone through a performance improvement plan?

These are very different skills, and sometimes people can be trained in these things or have very natural leadership abilities. But sometimes the best field service technician in the world can never, ever, coach someone else through a difficult time.

You shouldn’t promote someone who won’t be a good manager. If you are willing to invest a great deal of time in training and development, it may work to promote someone without natural ability if they show promise and have the desire to learn how to manage.

But, the problem with that approach is that people expect that they will be promoted when they are the best at what they do. And, if you don’t promote them, your competitor will offer them a promotion, and you’ll lose your best person. So, what to do instead?

Praise and Give a Big Raise

Tell your talented worker that you value him or her a great deal, but that it seems like they’re really happy in the field. Do they even want to manage others? The answer may be no. The answer may be “yes, of course,” but you won’t know until you ask. Make it clear that a raise is coming no matter what. If the person has an interest in managing, give him a shot, but also make it clear that if he finds out he prefers to be doing work in the field, he can go back.

This may mean that someone that is not quite as technically skilled becomes the manager to this person. This can definitely bring up conflicts, so you need to make it clear that this person knows what he is doing and needs minimal management. Micro-managers need not be considered, at all.

If your employee understands how much you value his work and his talents, this type of financial reward can be beneficial to everyone. You get to keep your best worker working, you have someone that prefers paperwork and training handling the administrative side of things, and your competitor won’t be able to poach your employee away with a promise of a promotion—because your employee knows you respect and value his work and he’s doing what he’s great at.

ABOUT Suzanne Lucas

Avatar photoSuzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers. She now writes about Human Resources and Business for a number of different publications.