Working for a global finance company this year, I was asked to support leaders in shaping their own leadership development goals. These goals were to be based upon assessment feedback data each received on their management behaviors, as well as, the leaders’ aspirations. As it turns out, two of these leaders were winding down their careers and they were quite stumped about defining personal development goals. Through conversation, each arrived at their desire to leave their teams in great shape, to prosper without them.
Last week, I listened to the familiar laments of bright and dynamic professional I know. Working for a global consulting firm, he joins a new project team every 3 to 6 months. Eager to have steady career progression, he is usually left on his own to grow his skills. He asked me if it is reasonable to expect his pressured manager to be more deliberate in giving him opportunities to grow.
You will never read a single line from some of today’s best writers.
Instead, you will hear them in a TV program or movie. A line that has resonated with me is from season six of Mad Men. When Pete, distraught about his work circumstance, asked for advice, he received this thought-provoking statement: “I realized I had regrets because I didn’t understand the wellspring of my confidence." Spurred by that counsel, Pete recognized the importance of his ex-wife and family, reunited with them, and was able to take a risk on a huge career move. That’s fiction, yet in reality, there is tremendous significance to being a wellspring of others’ confidence in order to help them grow. You can shore up your employees’ footing to go face risks and make big leaps in their capabilities.
In the midst of our intense discussion, Dom, a VP from a financial management firm, told me “I don’t need great rapport, I just want Karl to show respect by doing what I ask.” Dom wanted to prepare this smart professional for a more senior role and was very frustrated by repeated failed attempts to help Karl increase his business development abilities. He tried pointing out to Karl where his approach was lacking, giving guidance on better ways to create partnerships and support annual planning with clients. But over time, there was no real improvement. Dom attributed the lack of success to Karl having a real attitude problem. I asked Dom whether Karl felt comfortable with him, to which he responded “What difference does that make?”
Last month I worked with a manager who was eager to develop her staff, but was overwhelmed by her senior management’s charge to accelerate top performance with highly ambitious goals. In her company, performance standards directed employees’ efforts to be ‘excellent’, ‘exceptional’, and ‘outstanding’. Sound familiar? These targets were intended to be aspirational and inspirational. Yet, for her employees who were continually striving to grow new skills and increase competencies, these targets failed to even be motivational.