The Can’t Miss Quality When Promoting from Within


In today’s reality of shrinking budgets and uncertain futures, many organizations we are coaching are promoting leaders from within rather than making outside hires. 

As part of our framework to help leaders build killer teams (without killing themselves or their team) we help focus on one of the more ignored qualities of a team member who is ready to handle being promoted from within: Teachability.

Anyone can promote based solely on ability. Great team builders more often promote based on teachability: the forgotten twin of ability.

There is a noticeable common thread in most successful leaders: they are teachable. And correspondingly the opposite is true: the unteachable (gifted as they might be) are limited and, as a result, ineffective.

Teachability is an attitude to never stop learning. Simply put, it is being willing to relearn what we may already know.

Early on as leaders many of us have it because we are new. However, the more successful someone becomes, the less teachable they may also become. 

Your job as the leader is to develop keen eyes to spot other teachable leaders around you. Talent and past successes are great, but a teachable mindset makes a leader indispensable to your team.

Here are 4 ways someone visibly communicates their level of teachability.

1 – They talk about what they are learning

Learners discuss what they are learning. It is a way to process and let the new information breathe. If you have a team member who never talks about the book they are reading or podcast they just listened to; you may have a team member who lacks teachability. Leaders process learnings. Verbalizing what you’re learning conveys an intrinsic value to learn.

2 – They take notes when they meet with you

Don’t blow this off as “old school.” If a person wants to learn, they take notes. Leaders are learners and learners keep good ledgers. The leader who shows up to your meeting empty handed and never takes notes may not naturally be teachable. Randomly I will have someone meet with me who shows up with nothing to write with; that person never gets my best energy, content or time. Opportunities to soak up new information are opportunities teachable leaders are prepared for.

3 – They put down their phone

As much of a sign of respect as it is teachability, putting away your phone when meeting with someone communicates you value them as much as you do yourself. When someone in a meeting or learning environment can’t stay off their phone it communicates 3 things: First, an arrogance of feeling they’ve arrived and don’t need what they are sitting in. Next, they’re bound to the tyranny of the urgent. Finally, they are all about the party instead of the process so they are bound to their phone from fear of missing out on anything. Teachable leaders are proficient with “airplane mode.”

4 – They are friends with people in their field who know more than they do

Who leaders associate with determines teachable attitudes. A leader’s best resource, and strongest sign of teachability, are the names and numbers in their cell phone. If someone is only friends with other leaders who look to them for advice or lead smaller organizations than they do, it’s a sign of someone who needs to be a big fish in a small pond. If someone habitually connects with people who are ahead of them in some way, you have a teachable leader. The best leaders are friends with at least 3 other leaders who are 3 times their capacity.

The most teachable leaders prove to be the more impactful leaders! 

When promoting from within, focusing on teachability will ensure that your team is prepared, not only to achieve great success, but also have the ability to handle it. 

Does all of this seem like A LOT?

It actually is a lot. Frankly, it’s too much to do alone. That’s why at CourageToLead we believe, “Every Leader Needs a Coach”…because no leader can do it all alone!

Let’s set up a call with one of our coaches to talk through leading your team and organization through re-entry.


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