How can you make your direct reports feel like you support their growth trajectory when it comes to their career?

2.2k views14 Comments

Inventor, Wearables Pioneer, Product Designer and Manager, Thought Leadership in Software, 2 - 10 employees
You have to demonstrate that support. It's important to go to bat for people in a way that they can see. Show that you're talking about them to other people in a visible way by complimenting them to others and cc’ing them. People need a lot of positive feedback. They need 10 positive comments for every one negative one. People don't realize how much folks need to hear “Great,” or, “Awesome.” It needs to happen a lot and most will say it a few times, but then they forget. Most managers don't realize how often silence is interpreted as displeasure. 

It's very important for managers to be quick to take the hit when something has gone badly. Managers need to let their employees know that when something goes wrong, they're willing to take responsibility and not shift blame—that it's okay to do something wrong or to not get something done on time. It's always great to show yourself as an example, so that there's not a competitive environment of perfectionism where they’re just trying to win the best employee award. There has to be a safe environment.
CIO in Healthcare and Biotech, 51 - 200 employees
We focus on career path planning and specifically supporting our staff with their training aspirations. I have had great success with retaining staff who feel that they are on a specific journey at the company. 

Some healthy nudging and pushing also helps - always make sure that there is a little stretch involved in what they do. 

Then, when they achieve, recognize the achievement without making too much of it.
Director of The Digital Workplace in Software, 201 - 500 employees
Schedule a 1:1 meeting every month where you ask them how they feel like they are progressing towards their goals.
3 2 Replies
CIO in Healthcare and Biotech, 51 - 200 employees

I like this Neil - could this include the Stop, Start, Continue discussion? This is a conversation where I ask my teams what it is they feel I should stop, start or continue doing... In their 1-on-1 meetings we have a similar discussion with them - I just feel the group discussion makes it easier for people to speak openly.

Director of The Digital Workplace in Software, 201 - 500 employees

Totally. Stop Start Continue is a great framework for the 1:1.

CISO in Software, 10,001+ employees
It is about being engaged as a mentor and a coach with dedicated time in these roles and not just a manager.
Director of IT in Software, 201 - 500 employees
I try to support their skills training, provide adequate training and time to train, encourage them to take certificates. We cover the expense of the certification process. Trying to get as much quality training as possible, this includes CBT, bootcamps, fast track and workshops. I review their short and long-term aspirations and ambitions and try to set goals that can be reached and achieved so their career goes in the right direction.
CTO in Education, 51 - 200 employees
Listen to them about how they want to learn and grow, then find them the opportunities to do so within the needs of the business.

Find those opportunities by creating a culture of continuous improvement for your whole team, not just in their skills but in ways of working and uplifting the team. There's no point in growing only your top performers if that means they leave people behind.

Additionally, create a culture of experimentation that allows your direct reports to try out new things. Allow them to prove success or failure. Keep the experiments short-lived. Allowing them to learn new skills, share what they’ve learned with their peers and level up anything out of date whether it's tech, a system or a process.

Connect that employee with the people or resources they need to help them achieve those goals. Don’t merely praise success. Not every goal someone has for themselves is achievable immediately. Acknowledge and praise effort and progress over perfection and do it frequently.

Don’t just teach them to be handed training, opportunity and don't handhold them through the process. Make them work for it and teach resilience, problem-solving and initiative. Build them up as a whole person.
Director of The Digital Workplace in Software, 201 - 500 employees
Be willing to "lease" them out to other teams when an exciting project comes along. 
I highly recommend checking out "The Alliance" by Reid Hoffman as a great framework for discussing someone's career path. When you start there, everything is very clear.
CTO in Healthcare and Biotech, 11 - 50 employees
Communication is essential to know if they are aiming to have an organic growth or to move in a faster pace. Usually you'll get this on weekly 1:1.

The leadership I print on them, is to find out what they are expecting to have, what is the range of time they are expecting a change & their willigness to have bigger challenges, to deliver results faster, to learn wisely and to be beyond the obvious. 

They might have a biased vision of this growth trajectory based on what they see in their environment, the most important thing is to guide them thru all the process, to let them know that instead of a rocky road, we could pave this growth together based on OKRs that have to be met on time, monitoring this on a constantly basis.

Director of IT in Software, 10,001+ employees
By spending time listening to them.
By aligning company goals with career paths
By starting to think long term
By playing non zero sum games
Senior IT Manager in Government, 10,001+ employees
Training plans and all that aside, one of the most important things you can do, IMHO, is *be willing to let go* - realize you're best and brightest are only going to be with you for a short period of time - perhaps shorter than you'd like - but by being genuinely happy for them when they find new and better opportunities you foster a culture of growth that reflects back on you and your organization. Pretty soon the best and brightest are coming to you for opportunities on their way up the ladder. That's a win for everyone. 

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