Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

Promote Your All-Stars Without Throwing Off the Team Dynamic

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Being the leader of a company is like coaching a basketball team. Just like a coach has a strategy for each game about which players to put in the starting lineup, your goal should be to position your employees in a way that enables them to thrive and brings out the best in them. Promoting employees, like changing athletes in a lineup, can either strengthen the team or throw off the whole dynamic.

For employers, being able to recognize when an employee is ready for a promotion and helping the whole team make a smooth transition can mean the difference between a dream team and a disaster.

Related: 10 Practical Ways to Promote a High-Performance Culture

What to look for before a promotion.

Employee promotion isn’t only about pay raises or title changes. It means someone is taking on more responsibilities, managing people and being part of a bigger cause. Just because an employee has lots of experience doesn’t mean he or she has the skills to lead others.

Before you promote an employee, look for high performance, leadership skills, communication skills, a positive attitude and passion to determine if this will be the right move. Blended all together, these qualities make for a great leader.

Step back and observe members of your team during daily operations. Do any employees stand out for treating others well? Do they help others, take the lead on projects or inspire co-workers during tough stretches?

Do they focus on finding solutions instead of dwelling on problems? Are they constantly looking for opportunities to better themselves and the company? When a team member excels in most or all of these areas, it’s time to talk about a promotion.

Identifying candidates for a promotion is only the first step. Then comes the transition period, which affects the entire team.

Related: 7 Traits to Turn Good Managers Into Great Managers

Set up the team for a smooth transition.

When an employee is promoted, there’s an inevitable ripple effect as duties and responsibilities shift. Such a transition can be successfully navigated with a little preparation and follow-through on the manager's part. Here are some steps to take to make the transition smooth before, during and after a promotion:

1. Create a culture of teamwork. If your company's culture is focused on competition, employees may be envious and resentful when someone receives a promotion.

But if you’ve created a culture that embraces growth, innovation and teamwork, a promotion of a talented employee will feel natural.

At my company, Confirm BioSciences, I have a policy of promoting from within for top positions. This has created a culture of trust and commitment.

When one employee is promoted, others should feel inspired to work harder so that they can be the next one to take on an exciting new role.

2. Stagger promotions. While promoting all-star players should make your workplace function better, too many dramatic changes at once can disrupt the team dynamic. Avoid restructuring multiple departments at once. Promote or move employees one at a time to allow for better integration of the changes and staff adjustment.

3. Do a test run. Before you promote a certain employee, give the person a chance to work on a project with the new team or take on advanced duties to make sure the new position will be the right fit.

The same can be tried with the team members that the employee will leave behind. Allow them to take on trial projects without the key player to see how they'll perform and what additional help they’ll need.

4. Encourage communication. Check in with employees to see how they feel about a team member's advancement to a new post. Ask for feedback throughout the process to avoid leaving any gaps in the work flow during the transition.

5. Keep your eyes on the ball. Carefully monitor how your team is functioning after the promotion and make yourself available to help out when necessary. There may be a drop in performance at the beginning, but a strong culture of teamwork should help put everything back on track quickly.

Promoting employees allows you to move your strongest players into leadership positions and build a stronger team. When you recognize the signs that an employee is ready to move up and if you make the transition easy on everyone, it’s a buzzer-beating slam dunk.

Related: 7 Signs a Great Employee Might Be a Bad Boss

Entrepreneur Editors' Picks