So a while ago, I hired John (name changed to protect privacy). Actually, I almost didn’t hire him. Much as he impressed me in the interview, he called shortly after to say that he had been offered another role but preferred my role. He wondered if I could let him know sooner so that he didn’t lose on both. I felt a little rushed. But I also felt a sense of obligation to ensure that this role was in fact the better one for him.
Once in role, we set up regular one-to-ones (periodic meetings with line managers) and I requested John to send me key points before we met. He sent me a list with three items, namely, weekly report, governance structure and metrics. I smiled to myself as I replied saying this was about his learning and growth a not a work update. I suggested that he should think along the lines of how I could help him achieve his ambitions. He came back with a new list of three items – mentoring, studies and feedback.
When we met, he explained that he wished to do his CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) exam and build a career in portfolio construction. He wondered if he could find a mentor to guide him through his journey and if I might allow some study leave. As for feedback, he wanted to know if I had any feedback for him.
This was great. I felt we were on to something now.
Later, I introduced him to the relevant team and after a few conversations, he found a suitable mentor. I didn’t want to pick his mentor because I believe mentors need to match your style and disposition besides having the right skills and qualifications. The value of this connection is often overlooked.
As for leave, I told him to find the relevant policy and come back with a proposal.
Finally, for feedback, I said that I had noticed him shy away from taking on the tasks that required speaking to larger groups. Despite doing quality analysis and making clear presentation material, he would want me to present. He admitted to a fear of public speaking. I asked him if he would like us to change that and he said yes. We began working on this right away and he went from small sections on his own to a point where he was presenting complete packs to very senior stakeholders all on his own.
So why do I tell you this?
I say this because when I coach some of you, it hurts me to see just how often we behave like passengers in our own growth discussions confusing inflection points like one-to-ones with work updates and eventually feel disengaged. You are the single most interested person in your career. If it matters to you, you need to show it. A three point agenda is a great start.
As always, I’ll leave you with some key takeaways.
- The Trend is your Friend Personal growth is an investment right? So the trend is your friend. One meeting may not change your world but my worry for you is that this will be the start of a trend. As for us, not only did John successfully complete his course, he also found a role in the team where he wanted to be. That was an uptrend curated with deliberation.
- Growth Isn’t Always Linear Not all growth is linear. In fact most of my own growth in the last few years relates to an eclectic mix of things ranging from expanding my job role to learning to trade, taking on several speaking assignments, creating websites and YouTube videos, doing some TV and modelling work, extending my reach via countless articles, starting (and almost stopping) a business, coaching and mentoring at a more formal level etc. In fact, when John got the chance to move to his dream role, he sacrificed a move up for a sideways move. Only you can tell what growth means to you.
- You Send a Silent Message As leaders, when you care for your people, you send out a silent yet clear message – a message much louder than carefully crafted comms. This message takes respect to a whole new level transcending hierarchies and grades. As John began fronting the work and demonstrating his value, diaries opened up for him.
- It Doesn’t Take Time If you are worried that you don’t have time, I challenge you to think disruptive, collaborative and synergistic. In my case, all I had to unlock doors and connect dots – those connections brought added gains for the team.
So the next time you write up an agenda in a rush, or sit back and wait for your manager to suggest one, take a step back and think. List carefully.
I suggest you give growth a chance. It’s worth the risk.
Good luck. Let me know how you get on and drop me a line if you need help.