When is an Account Executive ready for promotion?

For the current generation of ambitious millennials, moving up the ladder in a creative agency can feel laborious. They are often impatient for promotion and being so socially-connected, feel they’re being overtaken by their peers.

 As a business owner or director, it’s not always easy to help younger team members understand that their career progression is a marathon, not a sprint, and that a premature promotion may do more harm than good. Giving younger employees responsibility, promoting emerging talent and fast-tracking the next generation of leaders can be immensely beneficial but how can you get the balance right to hold on to the best talent AND give them the experience they need?

 One of the first major moves young people in agencies make is from Account Executive to Account Manager. So what are some of the key skills required for this role and when is it a good time to shift up a gear.

 Client relationships

Managing and growing client relationships are vital skills for both Account Execs and Managers.  Support may be needed to build professional relationships and strike the right balance between friendliness and over familiarity.  Account Execs still need to be tenacious and persistent in making contacts and following up, and Account Managers must have a strategic attention to detail and be aware of internal resources that will benefit their clients.  

 Too much too soon

‘Soft’ skills don’t always come naturally to everyone. It takes time to develop emotional intelligence and build key skills such as listening, questioning, influencing and showing empathy.  Promoting talented young people too quickly can prevent them from honing these skills. Account Execs need time to learn their craft and be able to study or develop skills to build a solid foundation for their career. If an Exec is thrust into a managing position too quickly, the gaps in their knowledge and limited people management experience will soon be obvious. They may try too hard and overcompensate and start to lose their confidence, especially if they are given limited support or training.  Poor leadership of colleagues with more experience can also lead to conflict and resentment.

 If the Account Exec is full of talent and manages clients well they may well be ready for that step up but let’s not downplay the benefits of industry and life experience that come with staying at a more junior level for at least two years. It’s always good to ask yourself why an Exec is being promoted – is it because they have talent and drive and are ready, or because you don’t have enough experienced staff to fill the gap? Who benefits the most?

 If an Account Exec isn’t quite ready for promotion then be open and honest about why and put together a development plan with them so they are clear about what they need to do and what’s expected of them.

 Supporting both Account Execs and Managers with mentoring and one-to-one coaching is a perfect way to ‘upskill’ them to build both competence and confidence. Coaching can be tailored to specific needs, and is a very flexible and time-efficient method for personal development and improving performance. Find out more about coaching at https://www.redclematis.co.uk/personal-development

Maggie NewtonComment