3 Strategies for Responding to the “Growth and Development” Plea
A consistent theme amongst many managers I’ve been working with lately is uneasiness with and uncertainty around providing “professional development and growth opportunities” for their team members. Many are overwhelmed and some, let’s be honest, even resentful of this more and more consistent request from their employees.
If you’re in this boat – you’re not alone! Below are three strategies to help managers respond.
#1 – It Takes Two To Tango.
First thing first – the pressure should not solely fall on the manager. In today’s business landscape, managers need to serve in the roles of coach and connector…not lone soldier decision maker and approver. Get your employees engaged with their own request and have them take ownership of it.
Ask them to spend time thinking about what they want their growth at your company to look like and come back with three options to discuss with you. You might need to coach them through those options and also connect them to resources to help make it possible, but continue to have them take ownership of the actual implementation and offer quarterly check points (that they schedule) to touch base on how their action plan is coming along.
You’ll often have a greater understanding of the long-term goals of the organization, so one thing you’ll want to keep in mind as you coach them through their options is how the development plan can add value to key strategic business priorities.
#2 – There are MANY forms of development and MANY career paths to pursue.
Managers and individual contributors are both guilty of thinking that the only possible solution to this “professional growth” plea is a promotion into a management position. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Start thinking of management as a career field – just like any other field such as product development, marketing, sales, training, accounting, etc.
Management is only one career track of many that employees could pursue at your organization, but you may need to help open their eyes to that. At the end of the day, employees just don’t want to feel stagnant. They want to be challenged; they want to grow and learn new things; they want to feel like what they’re doing is adding value to something greater than them. This is a good thing – a positive shift we’ve seen in the workforce over the past several years. We just need to learn how to tap into this energy and drive in a positive and constructive way.
Below are a few examples of other paths and development opportunities outside of management that your employees might be interested in pursuing without even realizing it.
- Specialized program and/or project management responsibilities
- Increased client responsibility (larger accounts, new territories, etc.)
- Subject matter expert team training specialists
- Research and strategy-related responsibilities
- Onboarding mentors/buddy roles for new hires
- Departmental communication and/or marketing “champions”
- Cross-functional team liaisons
- Tactical team planners
#3 – Exploring alone is growth.
Once the manager and employee understand that this is a shared responsibility, and once eyes are opened to the various possibilities, then individual exploration needs to occur to determine the most appropriate path. Good news is that this exploration itself is growth! Encourage your employees to become more self-aware and answer questions such as:
- What are my natural strengths? Am I currently leveraging them? How could I be leveraging them to a greater extent?
- What are my professional interests and passions? What am I doing when I feel the most fulfilled at work?
- Am I interested in job shadowing other roles as I explore future possibilities?
- Do I have a mentor, outside of my direct supervisor, who can help me through this process of self-exploration?
Again, this plea for growth and development is a GOOD thing, so let’s reframe the way we’re approaching it.
What other strategies have you used to address this need? Please share!