Leadership Conversations: How to Award a Promotion

Mic Berman

August 11, 2017

Late last year we announced that we were making a move into the leadership coaching space because there was so much unrealized potential without the proper guidance to be a successful leader.  From startup developers that have been thrown into a lead role with no experience managing people, or a young entrepreneur who has never been through scaling a company – we’ve seen it all. Well we encourage all leaders (new and seasoned) to reach out for 1:1 coaching sessions, we also wanted to ensure we equipped leaders that may not have the opportunity to hire a coach, with advice on how to approach the day-to-day conversations that are expected of them.

Growing the Canadian tech ecosystem is important to us, and contributing to the sharing economy is one way for us to do that, which is why we are launching our Leadership Conversations series. For the first in the series, we will be looking at how to have conversations about a promotion with a team member.


One of the most fun moments that can happen in a work environment is when someone gets a promotion. Especially with all the uncertainty of job security that we hear about in the news, it’s always a bright spot to be able to be the bearer of good news to a member of your team that has earned it.

As a leadership coach, one of the main things I teach is how to have and facilitate important conversations. Every opportunity you have to communicate information to someone you lead is one you should take seriously! Positive conversations should be planned as much as negative ones. The impact you have cannot be underestimated here – clarity and understanding is ALWAYS the goal.

I understand the excitement one feels when you have watched someone grow and flourish in their role and you are able to promote them. I also understand that this can be a very overwhelming experience that can lead to glossing over information that is necessary for setting up success. I have compiled a list of things that you should keep in mind when having this conversation that will help ease your apprehension, but also set you up as the manager with communication and rapport building skills that should be emulated in your organization.



Ensure the new role is clearly defined. What are the key decisions this role will own and how will you expect them to communicate and with who else in the company those critical decisions. Where are the important collaboration points this role will work with. What impact do you expect it to have on the team and the company as a result of this role. How specifically will you measure success. Titles are meant to indicate an external clarity on the scope and responsibility for the role, internally however, the more important factor is the job description. Individually the title should provide clarity of reporting structure and career progression (where they can go from there).

It’s also important to have a clear reporting structure that supports the now and future growth of the company. Share how long you expect the reporting structure to be in place to support theirs and the company’s growth path. For example, there may be times where a role reports within the structure for a shorter period of time. This could be until you hire other leaders or where you’re ‘testing’ if a person can handle that new role.


Sharing the information with the person affected

Start with why you are picking them — how their skills match the job description, what you understand of their motivation, what you hope for the team and the company in their taking on the role. Demonstrate where it fits in the organization either by sharing an org chart (when possible) or what the reporting structure will be relative to CEO and other departments. Discuss how you see their career progressing and what success metrics you will gauge them on. As well as, how you both will change in the way you will be working together now that they will be in this new role


HR paperwork/legal protection

Provide a simple one page title change document once the new role takes effect, outlining the timeline, reporting structure and any salary change.


Communication to staff

An email to staff and/or a mention at the next All Staff meeting should be made to explain why this change is happening — what impact we expect to have on the business and what the key elements of the job description are.


All images found on giphy.com.

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