The Business Coach with Laura Murphy: “Promoted but not performing”

Question: “Our leading accountant has been promoted to partner but he is struggling with the role and it’s affecting the client work. What should we do?” Emmie

Answer: “You wouldn’t expect an engineer to suddenly be able to run a retail outlet so why would you think a specialist accountant could change skill sets overnight and cope with no support? As with any change, transition is smoother with prior planning and fortunately it’s not too late to do something about this situation.

The first thing is to undertake a skills audit. What are you expecting from your new partner that’s different? Dealing with clients, although requiring people skills, is very different from managing staff for example. Then, together, assess his capabilities and training needs against the new skill set. This should be a supportive conversation where the emphasis is on helping him to get to a situation where he’s confident and as high performing as before. He’ll know that he’s not doing his best and will be keen to do something about it.

There will be a mixture of remedies depending on the skill set required. Having one of the other partners mentoring him is one approach, or if none of the partners has that skill set, you could bring in a coach. Individual seminars on key issues could help, or formal management training is another option. Whatever the choice, have regular appraisals as to how things are going. Focus on a couple of easy wins first so that it’s a positive upward track and his colleagues can see that things are improving. Tackled early and with the right approach, he’ll stay motivated and the decline in performance will be a blip quickly forgotten by the clients.”


Laura Murphy is the founder of mtc2 ltd, a management consultancy, training and coaching company. Laura is an organisation development specialist and business coach. If you have a problem then contact her at

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Names and details have been changed to protect confidentiality.