On August 15th I wrote a blog post called “Having the Career Conversation.” In that post, I told you that I would be writing an upcoming series for managers on how to have career coaching conversations with employees. This post will be the first in a five-part series on that topic.
Step 1: Start the Career Conversation
Begin getting to know your employees. To successfully know the employees on your team you must recognize that this has to be done one person at a time. It is impossible to have a blanket approach for each and every employee as they are all different ages, they are at different stages of their career, and they will all define success in different ways.
Collective engagement from a team starts by inspiring one employee at a time. You cannot do this successfully unless you know and understand who your employees are.
Know When to Have the Conversation. You will have many chances to begin a career conversation with your direct reports. Here are some sample situations:
- When an employee asks for a meeting to discuss his or her career.
- When an employee fills out a year-end performance review.
- When setting yearly or quarterly goals.
- “Just in time” – any opportunity for feedback or celebration.
During this conversation you need to be focused on listening ─ follow the 80/20 rule (yes that means you listen 80% of the time) and avoid “solution pollution”. That means you don’t give all the answers, instead you ask questions allowing the employee to get to his or her own answers.
All managers do not necessarily come equipped with the ability to ask questions. If you do not have this skill set you have options. Consider investing in a coaching course for managers, buy a book on coaching, or ask a coach to give you a list of questions. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To have successful career coaching conversations with your employees it’s imperative that you learn how to ask open ended discovery questions.
How to Handle Difficult Questions. Be prepared for difficult questions like “I’ve been here for ten years. Why didn’t I get the position?” You can’t wimp out on answering these questions. You have to have the honest conversation. You have to give this person honest feedback and an opportunity to make changes. In some cases you may fear that you will lose the employee, but I promise you that if you don’t have the conversation and look for a solution with the employee, you will lose the employee to another company.
- Be open to questions and challenges.
- Do not evade the issue – address the question frankly and openly.
- Do not interpret questioning as a personal attack.
- Keep the message logical, respectful, and concrete.
- Pick the right time and place.
- Describe honestly the gap between the individual's observed performance and your expectations.
- Share the impact of his or her performance or behavior.
- Convey your positive intention to help the individual improve and evolve.
As a manager, you will play a critical role in the career development of your employees. In every successful career coaching conversation the manager should act as a coach, mentor, and champion for their employee so this is not a time to have a performance management conversation about past actions. The career coaching conversation should only be about the employee and their plans for the future.
Stay tuned for Step 2: Understanding Your Employee’s Interests, Motivators, and Aspirations.