In this video, learn how to hold the career conversation and implement the alliance framework.
- What are the nuts and bolts of actually carrying this out with an employee? Well the keys to having a successful conversation are to be systematic, consistent, and transparent. Here are a couple tips that will help you do it right. The first is to really carefully mold the conversation. Make sure you set aside enough time to actually have this conversation. This is not something you can cram into a five minute discussion on the way to the bathroom. It's also the case that this may be a little easier if you do it upfront, right when you're bringing someone into the company, because at that point in time when you're talking with a job candidate the objective is incredibly clear and it's expected to have that conversation.
It might be a little trickier to transition some of your current employees to a tour of duty, because they're so used to this traditional free agency mindset. It'll take a while for them to get out of it. What you need to do there is be willing to have multiple conversations and be really consistent over time, so they understand you're serious about this. Another thing you have to be careful about is you have to be sensitive to the power imbalance in the relationship. Typically the manager has the power over the employee. So if you have that upper hand you need to be really proactive about demonstrating your commitment to fairness.
The employee needs to understand that despite the fact that you have the power in the relationship you're not gonna abuse it. But there are times, for example when talent is scarce, that the employee actually has the upper hand. If the employee decides to assert their dominance acknowledge that fact, don't try to hide it, but tell them, listen, despite that fact I still wanna create a win/win for both of us. When you're defining that tour of duty you need to choose some metrics that are leading indicators. And what I mean by metrics are things that you can actually measure, so you can tell whether or not they're making progress towards that objective.
In the tech world things like revenue, or page views, or customer satisfaction help evaluate a person's performance within that tour of duty. It's not the case that you can measure the success of a tour of duty solely on whether or not the manager is happy. In fact, that's a terrible way to do things. The success or failure of the tour of duty should focus on measurable metrics, and that's what you need to be competitive in today's business world. Don't try to make your employees feel guilty about their performance against the tour of duty.
This is not about guilt, this is about principle. Two people who have decided to come together to strive towards mutual goals. Guilt just gets in the way, focus instead on if there's an issue how do we solve that issue together? You're gonna need to regularly check in with your employee. One of the expressions that LinkedIn's CEO Jeff Weiner likes to use is that trust is built with consistency over time. This definitely applies when it comes to a tour of duty. You need to have these conversations on a consistent basis, otherwise your employees might think it's a fad.
Use your consistent action to demonstrate your commitment, both with the formal checkpoints that you're having perhaps quarterly, and the informal conversations that you're having during your weekly check-ins for other matters. You need to establish a strong basis for trust. Don't be afraid to use words like trust, or transparency, or alliance. These words were chosen for a reason, because they convey the kind of openness that needs to exist. The other great way to demonstrate that you're really open to a conversation is to talk about scenarios under which the employee might leave the company.
Kevin Scott, the VP of engineering at LinkedIn, likes to talk to job candidates and ask them, "So, what job do you think you'd like to have "after you leave LinkedIn?" Now this is a pretty aggressive and unusual thing to say, but what it does is it tells the employees, you know what? It's okay to say someday I want to be VP of engineering of my own company, or someday I wanna start my own company. As you're having this conversation you might scare your employees a little bit. They're not used to having this kind of talk, they may think, uh oh, are you trying to fire me? You're talking about goals, if I don't achieve them does that mean I'm out? So these kinds of conversations can trigger fear, but that's not the point of the conversation.
The point of the conversation is to generate mutual benefit for both you and the employee. And what you need to do is to emphasize to the employee, listen, we're not on opposite sides, we're on the same side trying to reach the same objective, and this is something I'm doing with everyone on the team, you're not being singled out, this is the new way of doing things. And finally, and this is very important, when you're going to have this conversation don't just spring it on your employees. Share the agenda for the conversation in advance and have the employee prepare and make sure you prepare yourself.
This is a structured conversation, not something you're gonna try to do off the cuff. You should both take detailed notes on what's said, so that you can agree on next steps and schedule a followup. All the wonderful conversations in the world aren't gonna help if you don't follow up aggressively. And in order to do that you've gotta write it down, make it concrete and specific. It's all too easy for people to have a conversation and say, you agree? Yeah, do you agree? Yeah. Write it down, avoid ambiguity, make sure both of you review what's been written down, so that you eliminate those vague goals and timelines.
I like to say there's a very simple way to enforce accountability and that's to ask the question, who does what by when? If you answer the question who does what by when for each of the things you've written down as a result of the tour of duty conversation you'll drive accountability and have a better performance over time. Ultimately after you've had this conversation the deliverables should be what we call a statement of alliance, which summarizes both the objectives and the benefits to both sides. We've actually included one of these statements of alliance as an exercise file along with this course and you can refer to it as you work on your own statement of alliance.
Once you're done with your statement of alliance, agree on what the next steps are gonna be, schedule your followup, if you're doing quarterly followups go to the calendar, put it in there right now to make sure you don't forget, to make sure you don't leave that up to chance. If you take the time to have the conversation around the tour of duty, if you make sure that everyone is prepared, if you deal with the power imbalances, if you tackle all these different techniques, you'll ultimately reap the results, which is a motivated employee who is more productive, who'll achieve amazing things for the company, transforming their career and transforming the company's business.
Reid and Chris share specific insights from their own experiences with companies like PayPal, Kapost, and LinkedIn, and more.
- Defining a rotational, transformational, or foundational tour of duty
- How to identify each employee's values and aspirations
- Aligning employee, manager, and company goals
- Establishing and leveraging alumni networks