In a recent blog post, I provided my five top career tips for individuals, emphasizing the need for each of us to take ownership for our own progress.
That’s all well and good — however, managers, you’re not off the hook. The fact is, study after study (as well as personal experience) says that managers can have a huge impact on the success of the individuals on their teams, in their current role as well as their overall career.
If you want to be one of those rare but highly revered managers known for their knack for developing their people, here are five things that you should do, starting today:
#1. Know Yourself and Your People
The formula is simple. To excel at developing others, you need to know what makes them tick plus what makes you tick. Without both, you’ll likely fall into the all-too-common trap of developing others exactly as you like to be developed. You aspire to advance up to senior management so you focus your development as if everyone else wants the same. That may work for some, but not most. It also means you’ll lose out on the uniqueness that each person can build on to contribute to the organization in great new ways. Top sports coaches go to great lengths to learn each player’s unique strengths — and what drives them — to get the best from everyone. Find ways to do the same.
#2. Share the Organization’s Needs
Opportunities are the currency for all development. The problem is, most people say that when it comes to career development, they don’t know what their options are — and that their managers are no help. Make it your business to know where your organization, business unit, team is headed, along with the skills and attributes your organization will need in their people to get there. Share that information with your team members early and often, helping them to determine where they can/should put their focus and effort.#3. Stretch Them
As the saying goes, “no pain, no gain.” People expand and develop new skills and capabilities through stretch assignments that align with their unique talents and passions. As managers, you are in the unique position of distributing or approving these so-called “learning loop” opportunities. Managers often tend to give the assignments that are most developmental (visible, important, complex) to those on their teams they consider their “go-to” people (often those most like us). In doing so, we miss the chance to stretch each individual on the team based on their unique capabilities and opportunities for development.
By the way, two critical by-products from providing these kinds of stretch opportunities are trust and confidence. Providing team members with assignments that align with their unique talents and passions (see point 1 above) demonstrates your trust in their ability to grow and puts them on an upward loop of continuous learning and improvement. Assuming you provide ongoing support and coaching along the way, their confidence continues to grow, enabling them to take on the next, bigger opportunity in their journey.#4. Let them drive
Though tempting, don’t confuse developing people with regaling them with your brilliance (hey, we’ve all done it and you know it). The most effective people developers are those who focus on helping individuals discover their own road map to success rather than mapping it out for them. Insist that your team members create an initial draft of their development plan and then walk you through it (read, they do most of the talking). As they share, focus on asking questions that help them discover for themselves the potential missing elements in their plan and turns they could/should take down the road.
That doesn’t mean you should let them drive off the road, of course. In your discussions, “mirror reality” for them by offering an outside view of things that they can’t see on their own, including potential blindspots that could derail them. For example, if one of their career goals is managing people but they are unaware of their tendency to control all of the details on projects, you will want to help them see how that could get in their way. Also, make sure to continuously give them feedback that reinforces their efforts that have been effective, not just on the outcomes. This will help them sustain the engagement necessary for them to stay in the driver’s seat of their career.#5. Keep them honest
This final thing you can do is key — they need to “just do it,” and you can help ensure that they do. Make sure that their development plans contain a short set of SMART goals (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound) for their development over the next year to two. Also, make sure you have an agreement regarding how they will track and update you on their progress. On a day-to-day basis, you can help keep them on track by asking them (in the hallway, on regular project update calls, etc.) not only what they have accomplished on a project or task but how that’s impacted their development — what they learned from it that will contribute to their path. Knowing that you’re going to ask about it tends to help keep people moving forward.
Thanks for reading — let me know your thoughts, reactions and personal experiences.
Thank you to Tim for sharing his advice! Be sure to check out his original post on career tips for more. Here's an excerpt:
"Remember that development can (and should) be a part of your daily ritual and not just an afterthought. In this way, you make it that much harder to “cheat yourself” from the development that you want and need, which means that you’ll find job satisfaction in what you do, and your contribution or value will continue to rise.
"Making our plan a reality will certainly mean receiving ongoing coaching and feedback from your boss (and probably others). These coaches will keep you honest, and remind you to stay focused and stick with your plan. You’ll find it helpful to set some specific dates for updates and follow-up with your boss on a more formal basis, as well as having ongoing conversations about the “stretch” work you’ve got planned. This will keep you on track and help you make adjustments as things change."