Promoting Inexperienced Managers

Here is a very common scenario in startups; you need a manager for a fast growing team.

Do you hire in a manager to a team or do you ask one of the most promising team members to be the manager? What if that person has never managed people before?

There are advantages to hiring externally and advantages to promoting from within...

External hire;

  • proven management skills
  • will add fresh perspective
  • BUT doesn't know the product, the people or you

Internal hire;

  • knows the product / service intimately
  • knows the people on the team
  • knows you
  • BUT doesn't have managerial experience

There's a clear trade-off to make;

product expertise with managerial inexperience
managerial experience with product inexperience

There's no right or wrong answer to this trade-off.

Ultimately it boils down to

  1. whether you believe your internal candidate has sufficient potential
  2. whether you're prepare to support them to develop their potential

To understand their potential, I'd recommending looking at;

  • what is her track record to date when in comes to her working relationships with others?
  • how much ownership of a problem does she take?
  • what positive character traits does she have and how can she take advantage of these should she manage others?
  • is she willing to take responsibility and does she want to do it?
  • will the rest of the team understand why you promoted her?
  • do you have a plan on how you can support her?

If all of the above are positive, the internal candidate is a good choice. It shows everyone else in your team that you will promote internally and there are opportunities for development.

Just be prepared to help her realise her potential.

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