Learn how to frame expectations so that direct reports assume responsibility for their own professional development, and their career.
- I like to describe an organization as a ship because it's a vessel for a distinct purpose. Organizations can carry people to a destination. There's an inherent obligation because if the people take care of the ship, the ship will take care of the people. As a senior leader, it's very important that people under your charge truly understand that the responsibility for their career and their professional development is theirs. The vessel can provide training and developmental opportunities, but whether someone grows enough to be trusted with additional responsibility is up to them. Here are three things to keep in mind when framing expectations so your direct reports assume responsibility for their own professional development. First, you have to hit your number. Everyone has a number, whether they're in sales, delivery or support, there is always a way to quantify production and efficiency, and everyone needs to know hitting the number is the very minimum. Think about a professional sports team. They love numbers. There are stats on literally everything. Athletes and coaches keep track of the stats for two reasons. One, to know if someone deserves to keep their spot, and two, to find where performance can be tweaked and improved. This should not just be the job of the leader. Make sure your people know that keeping score is their job. Second, you have to align your behavior with the core values of the organization. This is why most people fail to get promotions or get fired. Very seldom is it due to competence. Robert Fulghum wrote "All I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." And it really is true. Share, play fair, clean up your own mess and say you're sorry when you hurt somebody. People need to know the last thing you need is drama. Their job is to actually make your job easier, not harder. And it is okay to tell people that. Lastly, with regard to career, remind people some people take what's given to them, while others ask for what they want. At the same time, be careful what you ask for. This is where you can really help people plan realistic goals at your organization. If someone will never be on track for management, don't lead him or her on. Tell them the reality of your assessment, but don't tell them they'll never be a manager because maybe there is a place where their unique combination of skills will be the perfect fit. No one should ever be surprised at what you think of them and their future. Have the difficult conversations. A friend of mine was told he'd never be a manager, and he never was. But he did get a PhD in pharmacoeconomics and made a huge difference at his firm. He just led in a very different way. In the end, if the people take care of the ship, the ship will take care of the people.