Managers who support the development goals of their team members and provide them with stretch opportunities and opportunities for coaching, will notice how quickly these activities can build both learning and engagement in their teams.
This is especially true in the new economy, where personal and professional development is becoming one of the most important reasons for employees to take on (and remain in) a given role. Yet, according to the CIPD Employee Outlook in 2017, almost a quarter of employees were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the opportunities they have been given to develop their skills in their job. Knowing that supporting development is important is one thing, actually spending time discussing and planning for development can be something else altogether.
It is important to have development conversations regularly and to do them well. Our experience working with leaders across the globe tells us that the most constructive development conversations find a way to align the individuals development goals with the organisational, business or team objectives. This could be described as the point where employees goals and expectations meet the organisations aspirations – Otherwise known as “The Sweet Spot:
Managers who conduct development conversations should try to uncover where this Sweet Spot might be. Once this has been identified it can be a powerful tool for engagement. The employee gets a better sense of how their own development contributes to the success of the organisation and deeper sense of ownership and accountability. The manager benefits from the alignment this creates and the sense that ‘we are all pulling in the same direction’. The conversation becomes not about the individual (the manager or team member) but the individual as part of the larger organisation.
So, as a manager how can you identify where this Sweet Spot might be? The following tips might be useful:
- Invest time in understanding what drives your team member. Before conducting your development conversation, spend some time considering the individuals aspirations and how they fit with the organisations aspirations. You can uncover individual aspirations through dialogue (What is important to them today in their role? What would they like to achieve longer-term? etc) or through observing them as they go about their work (What activities does this person tend to enjoy? When do you see them ‘at their best’? What natural skills do they have and which skills are they keen to develop? Etc).
- Prepare your ‘Cascade Message’. Spend time becoming familiar with the stated objectives and strategies of your organisation, your function/business unit and your team. Consider how the organisations strategy and vision filters down to, and influences the team members daily activities and longer term personal goals. Your ability to clearly articulate the link between the organisational and the personal will be important. This is your Cascade Message, and it may need refinement and practice
- Balance advocacy with enquiry. During your development conversation, be sure to balance the discussion between the team members needs and the organisations needs. This will require you to both listen and to advocate. It is often best to start with this listening – asking open questions and probing for their views and preferences – before advocating a path. See this as a dialogue and as an opportunity to help the team member mould what they wants to do with something that the organisation requires – it is unusual for there not to be some overlap.
The above are just a few tips to ensure success. If you are curious in learning more about development conversations, you may be interested in our Development Conversations Leadership Workshop.