Why “Big Picture” Career Discussions are Important

Career planning is very important, yet often overlooked by managers. Like it or not, employees are actively considering all of their career options, within and beyond your company and your team. The absence of career discussions that take into account where the employee sees themselves in the next year or the next five years contribute to decreased employee engagement and increased attrition.

Generally, employees consider these career questions :

  •   Am I in the right organization? For now and for the future?
  •   What new skills or experiences do I need for the next step?
  •   How does my manager see my future?
  •   How committed is my manager to helping me?

Before the discussion think about the following:

  •   What do I see as this person’s ultimate potential?
  •   What do I think the employee needs to do to get there?
  •   What do I feel are the employee’s key strengths?
  •   What do I know about this employee’s immediate key developmental needs?
  •   What do I see as the employee’s next assignment?

How to help employees prepare for career discussions

Prior to having career discussions with employees, suggest they prepare for the discussion by thinking about their aspirations, goals and successes. This may help to alleviate the discomfort. Ask them to consider additional skills they want to develop, strengths and areas of improvement, and projects or activities that will provide an opportunity to stretch their skills and grow professionally.

How do I begin a career discussion?

For a productive and positive career discussion, managers should begin with open-ended questions such as: “How does your current work fit with your career goals?” or “Where do you see yourself in your career a year from now or longer?”  Set aside time each year to have these discussions with everyone you manage. It is important for the conversation to be interactive, allowing employees to interject their thoughts throughout the discussion.

What if the person seems uncomfortable with my questions?

If you do sense some discomfort, you might acknowledge how challenging career discussions can be. Perhaps the individual is content in their role or isn’t ready to have a big picture career discussion. To get a sense of what motivates and engages them at work, you may want to ask:

“What problems excite you?” or “What strengths can you build on?” or

“What types of work do you want to do less of or more of?”

What about an employee in the later stage of their career?

Keep in mind that just because someone is older doesn’t mean their next step is retirement. Nineteen percent of those 65 and older said they wanted to change jobs rather than retiring. Although you may want to know about an employee’s retirement plans, it is best to wait until he or she brings it up. No one should feel they are being pushed out.1

Many people want more flexibility as they near retirement so be prepared with those options. For example, work out a part-time arrangement with someone who has great institutional knowledge. Or consider a phased exit over a defined period, or a completely different role or job he or she would like to try. Whatever the arrangement, it needs to be the right choice for the individual and the organization. It is important to know the culture of your organization before offering options to an employee.

What if I am still nervous about having a career discussion?

The EAP is always standing by to help as a sounding board or to help with rehearsing a difficult conversation.

1 “More Senior Citizens Working Past Retirement Age,” Insurance Journal, https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2017/07/11/457194.htm


The 7 Traits of Highly Effective Managers

In the last blog post, we talked about how managers build good reputations and strong rapports with direct reports. Building trust by consistency in actions and words was one important step. They made investments in the growth and development of employees and created a safe environment for positive and corrective feedback. They continually worked on their own improvement, asking themselves tough questions about their own work style and blind spots.

Here are seven of the most common traits of an effective manager:

  1. Vision and Mission: Effective managers share a larger vision and mission. They help people see the connection between their day-to-day work and the bigger purpose of the organization.
  2. Emotional Intelligence: Effective managers have enough self-awareness to provide stability to direct reports. For example, a manager responds with appropriate emotional affect and is able to show empathy with ease.
  3. Accountability: Effective managers stay on top of projects and follow-up to ensure group success. By doing this, they model accountability and are able to develop their teams.
  4. Empathy: Effective managers notice when people are struggling and acknowledge it. This can range from sharing an awareness of day-to-day stress levels to responding appropriately to life-threatening illnesses or events in an employee’s personal life..
  5. Listening: Effective managers are excellent listeners and reflect back their understanding to avoid any miscommunication. They model good behavior for those who take up too much air time or speak without thinking.
  6. Continuous Learning: Effective managers openly search for new information or understanding. Their quest for knowledge is infectious and sets the tone for a positive environment where learning is ongoing.
  7. Coaching: Effective managers learn some coaching techniques and give regular feedback. In addition to providing specific feedback, these coaching skills help employees come to their own conclusions by suggesting, rather than dictating.

Managing isn’t for everyone. A promotion to manager may be a step up, but may not be the right one for you. If you’re already a manager, how many of the seven traits do you possess? Where and how can you improve?

The end goal is more satisfying work and discovering that employees want to work for you because of your reputation as a good manager.

The EAP and Work-Life program is standing by to help you to think through difficult situations. Call today for a confidential conversation.

Are You a Highly Effective Manager?

We’ve all heard the old adage, “People don’t leave jobs, people leave bosses.” A manager who isn’t consistent, bullies or has other negative traits can drive excellent employees to look elsewhere, even if they otherwise love their work.

During the interview process, it’s hard for candidates to recognize these unfavorable characteristics when everyone is on their best behavior. Employees can then feel blindsided once the honeymoon phase of a manager relationship fades.

So, how do managers build good reputations and strong rapport with their direct reports? They show an interest, they listen and are open to new ideas. They develop trust by actions not just words. They embrace the talents of their staff and make an investment in their growth and development. Good managers create a safe environment where positive and corrective feedback is the norm.

Good managers recognize that frequent communication across the organization and the recognition of teamwork is essential. Managers who are self-aware often take advantage of executive coaching, self-assessment tools and 360-degree feedback analysis. In the spirit of continuous improvement, they may ask themselves:

What aspects of my work-style are effective and where to I need to adjust?

What blind spots do I have that interfere with my ability to be me a better manager and leader for my organization?

What is my action plan to improve?

Managing isn’t for everyone. Watch for an upcoming blog post on “The 7 Traits of Highly Effective Managers” and use these posts to reflect on your own situation.