Great Leaders Are Career Managers, 4 Ways to Get There

February 13, 2014 Vince Molinaro

Great leaders are Career Managers blog pic

A few years back, a manager on my team was struggling with one of her direct reports, a talented employee who was nonetheless unhappy about her career progress.

After the manager described her utter frustration, I asked her a key question: “Have you actually sat down and listened to her?”

It may seem like a no-brainer, but not every manager takes the time to sit down and probe an employee’s career concerns. This isn’t about telling someone what to do. It’s about listening and offering ideas for consideration.

After making this suggestion to the manager, she paused and then said she would give it a try.

Later, I happened to cross paths with the employee in question. Without prompting, she said she had an amazing career conversation with her manager. She was totally pumped, and clearly more engaged in her work.

All this was because the manager finally saw the benefits of having a simple conversation.

I’ve come to learn that as leaders, one of the most important decisions we will ever make is to engage our employees in career conversations. Unfortunately, I think many leaders simply don’t know how to start the conversation. As a result, they avoid them completely.

To explore this issue more, I reached out to a few of my colleagues at Knightsbridge – Kim Spurgeon, Sandra Boyd and Dale Pratt – who are career management experts. They just put out a new research paper in partnership with the Human Capital Institute entitled “Talk With Me

Here are just 4 examples of how you can be better Career Managers for your employees:

1. Make the commitment. Less than a third of managers report making the time to have career conversations with their direct reports. Great leaders are the ones that stop stalling, and make the commitment to open up that dialogue. They commit to being developers of people.

2. Get to know your people. As a leader you need to know what motivates your people and where they feel they can contribute best. Here are three questions to get you started:

    • What accomplishments are you most proud of?
    • When are you at your best?
    • What are your current and future career goals?

    3. Don’t Confuse Performance Management with Career Management. Many leaders believe a performance review is sufficient to help employees with career issues. Performance management is about measuring performance; career management is about discovering aspirations and enabling growth.

    4. Be a people developer. Showcase the talents of your team by exposing them to people outside your department or to a senior team. Encourage them to grow and reach beyond their current station. And don’t focus all your energy on high potentials. All your employees deserve career management attention.

    Employees that are afforded career conversations feel valued, and more willing to give you discretionary effort. It will also help your organization retain top talent.

    At a personal level, you’ll be seen as a great leader within your own organization. People will want to work for you because they know they will grow under your leadership.

    To learn more about Knightsbridge’s research on career management, you can download a copy of the report here. You can also take part in a webinar taking place on February 19th to hear directly from the report’s authors.

    Follow me @VinceMolinaro

    About the Author

    Vince Molinaro

    Vince Molinaro is the Global Managing Director of Strategic Solutions at Lee Hecht Harrison. He is also the author of The Leadership Contract – a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. Vince has spent more than 20 years as an adviser to boards and senior executives looking to improve leadership in their organizations.

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