There are four ways you can advance team members within your organization:

  1. Annual performance boost. The longer a team member is with your company, the more proficient and valuable he or she becomes. This is the logic behind the customary annual review pay raise.
  2. Natural upward transition. When a team member progresses, the next in line naturally advances—as his or her existing position is the training ground for the next level.
  3. If/Then 1 elevation. This option comes into play when a position becomes available and the natural team member fit isn’t apparent. At this point, the team leader and possible team member candidate embark on a trial period. If it’s a success, then he or she is advanced.
  4. If/Then 2 elevation. This alternative arises when a team member wants to grow certain areas of the company and his or her skill set. He or she is given the opportunity to plan a new position and embark on a trial period. If it’s a success, then he or she is advanced.


You’re probably familiar with the first two advancement scenarios. The latter two may spontaneously occur, but aren’t often defined or readily implemented. They should be though. They’re the most effective team member advancement methods.

Like most practical concepts, the If/Then 1 elevation emerged in my organization as a solution to a challenge:

Jennifer was a great team member. She had been with my company for years, always showed up with a positive attitude and generated consistent results in her customer service role. She received the traditional annual pay boosts over the years, but had never been promoted to a new role.

A customer service manager position opened and I felt Jennifer deserved a shot since she had fulfilled her existing role so well. The only problem: Jennifer didn’t have managerial experience and I didn’t know if she could handle, or would even enjoy management duties.

I had two outlooks pulling me in different directions. As a leader, it was my responsibility to develop and challenge my team—Jennifer would have the opportunity to grow in the management position. As a business owner, it was my job to ensure tasks and deadlines were completed with efficiency so the company could preform at its peak—Jennifer’s lack of management experience could potentially jeopardized her department’s effectiveness and weaken her and the team’s morale.

This dilemma led me to coin the If/Then 1 elevation.

Jennifer and I discussed the available management position. We decided she’d take on the managerial responsibilities for three months. If she did well and enjoyed the work, she’d get the manager title and the accompanying pay raise. If the trial period didn’t go well, we’d have the If/Then 2 conversation.

The If/Then 2 elevation also emerged to remedy a unique situation:

Mandy had been with my company for a while, receiving her annual boosts and had been naturally promoted several times. Looking for her next challenge, Mandy identified areas in the business that could use enhancement or development. For example, we needed to enrich our social media influence, construct and distribute a newsletter and produce marketing brochures.

She approached me with these ideas and told me she’d like to own them—as it was important to her to develop her marketing skills.

We agreed that she could develop a three-month plan, I’d sign off on it and then she’d implement. If the three-month trial proved fruitful to the company and enjoyable to her, then she’d have the marketing position full time.

Jennifer and Mandy both went above and beyond in their trial periods and were advanced to their new positions. They pursued their new roles with vigor and passion because 1.) they earned their positions. We always value what we rightly earn. And 2.) they were engaged. They weren’t held back in positions they had outgrown and weren’t forced into positions that weren’t a fit for them.

If you’re looking for a way to boost ownership and engagement, implement If/Then advancement opportunities in your organization.


Do you have a unique advancement option in your business? Let me know below.


Originally published in The Tennessean.

Photo credit: <a href=””>Lida Rose</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a> <a href=””>cc</a>