Managing Career Aspiration
Columnist Caroline Cooper from Zeal Coaching explains why and how you should manage the career aspirations of your employees.
How many times have you had in your mind one particular outcome, but what’s been delivered by your team is a very different result?
How we communicate our expectations is a key part of any business and absolutely critical if we are ever going to be able to delegate and trust others to run things on our behalf when we’re not there. Mixed messages and misunderstanding are not only frustrating for you, but confusing, frustrating and demotivating for your team, as well as leading to inconsistencies in your standards and what your guests see and experience.
But it’s not necessarily just about the standard of the job. The same principles apply to our expectations of the team longer term in relation to their role and career. Let me give two examples from coaching sessions I’ve conducted this week both in relation to career aspirations.
In both situations the owner has identify potential and seen the individual taking on more responsibility.
In one case the individual was completely up to this. Or so it seemed. When I asked him how he saw things in 12 months’ time the picture he painted was somebody still very hands on with the owner still taking responsibility for much of the financial control.
When I asked the owner to paint a picture of his expectations, he described something very different, with the individual taking complete responsibility for all of these areas.
There was a huge gap between what the owner expected and what the manager envisaged this would be like. Once the manager had painted a more detailed picture there came this realisation from both that there was a huge step to getting him where he needs to be. The good thing is that now at least each of them understands each other’s expectations and perceptions.
In the second case the owner has recognised potential and is giving the sous chef additional responsibility, but has just assumed that the she wants this. The sous chef was resentful because she’s been given extra things to do and given new responsibilities without any discussion as to whether this is what she wants. She also feels awkward as she “doesn’t see it as her place to be telling her colleagues what to do”
In neither case is it a question of them not wanting to get on, it has been the way the assumption has been made. So how can you avoid misunderstandings and ensure that you’re both aiming for the same outcome?
Hopefully you are already having regular one to one meetings with everyone in your team so you’ll have some idea of their aspirations. However when the time comes to formally recognise a potential career move:
- Schedule uninterrupted time to have an initial discussion in private.
- Give them time to reflect on whether what you propose is what they want, and maybe discuss it at home.
- Avoid making promises about the outcome if it is dependent on how well they perform on any new tasks or responsibilities assigned to them.
What is important?
Start by finding out what’s important to them. Don’t try and second guess this – ask them!
- What motivates them in work?
- What’s important to them outside work, and is the career path you have in mind compatible with this?
- What are the things that they value and are not prepared to give up?
- What are their strengths that you can build upon?
- What do they enjoy? The chances are things they enjoy they’ll put more effort into.
- Do a sense check that what you have in mind for them is a good fit.
Outline your expectations
Establish your criteria for success; what do you want them to achieve in the role?
- What will be the key performance indicators against which you will be measuring their output?
- What will you hear, see and feel when you see them performing this role?
- How soon do you expect them to be able to get to this level?
Their expectations and perception
Ask them for their perception of the role by asking similar questions:
- What do they consider to be the key areas of performance against which they’d be measuring their success?
- What will they hear, see and feel when they are performing this role?
- How soon do they expect to be able to get to this level?
- What do they need to happen between now and then? (This is a good question to open up the discussion on development and support needed)
How well does their interpretation of the role match yours?
What’s in it for them?
Stepping up will bring with it more responsibility, hard work and an element of risk, so make sure you don’t exploit this. I’ve seen this happen many times when the manager expects someone to take on additional responsibility longer term with absolutely no recognition for it. Despite the fact they recognise it as good experience it can still lead to resentment.
Additional responsibilities mean that some existing tasks will have to give. Who will pick up this slack? You can’t expect them to take on more responsibilities without offloading some of their existing workload and they may need help defining what can be delegated or left undone.
The development opportunity will only be appreciated if it is genuine development with the appropriate support (see below). Think about what tangible rewards too, which might be linked to their performance. When they are ready to take on the role officially, how will this be recognised?
People need the right environment in which to learn and develop.
- Break down the goal into manageable steps, with your expectations for each stage, then discuss and agree at each stage what help and support they’ll need to achieve this.
- Give people guidance and make your expectations of the outcome clear, but allow enough leeway to find their own way of doing things.
- Give the appropriate authority needed to carry out the job effectively, and ensure those they supervise and anyone else affected are clear on these levels of authority.
- Ensure the appropriate systems and procedures are in place (unless of course establishing these is part of their development).
- Give feedback 2 on their performance, giving praise where it’s due and offer suggestions and guidance on how to improve things further.
Managing career aspirations needs discussion to ensure you are both aiming for the same outcome, and have the same expectation. Once you’re sure you both want the same thing you can then manage how you get there.
By Caroline Cooper