Part of being a strong, positive leader is caring about the career paths of your employees just as much as you do your own. If you’ve been in leadership for some time, you probably already know the obvious ways you can help: provide growth opportunities, assign stretch assignments and arrange mentorships. But what about the not-so-obvious strategies? Here are four unique and somewhat surprising ways to help your employees get to where they want to go.
Find their true goals
In reality, your employees may not even really know what they want to get out of their career. Or, they do and they’re afraid to speak up because they feel it’s outside the typical career path. Helping someone reach their fullest potential shouldn’t just be an item on your to do list. It should be about uncovering that individual’s passion and fulfillment. And doing this often requires pushing an employee’s assumptions about what they think they want versus what they really, truly desire deep down.
It’s also important to help your team members differentiate between short term and long term goals. Striving for the obvious next-step-up promotion is great, but what are their long-term aspirations? Once you’ve helped your employees identify these things, work to create a plan to help bridge the gap from where they are now to where they ultimately want to end up.
Market their talents.
In order to sell a product or service effectively, you must invest in marketing it. Helping your employees reach their career goals is no different. Think about it. Advancing and climbing the ladder often requires the support of key stakeholders. As a leader, it’s your job to market and sell your people to those stakeholders. Here are some basic principles upon which you can begin to build out a marketing plan for each of your employees:
- Who will you target about the employee? Who are his or her key career influencers?
- What message do you want to send and when?
- Are there specific times, such as when the employee is up for a promotion, when messaging would be most impactful?
- How will you go about getting more exposure opportunities for the employee
(i.e. presentations to upper management, email updates on their key accomplishments, etc.)?
Help them hone their A-game.
Impressions that can make (or break) a career are often formed during certain events, such as big presentations, major announcements or powerful pitches. Don’t leave your employee alone in the trenches. Step in and provide guidance and support by helping him or her prepare for these milestones. Let them practice on you. Help them brainstorm and anticipate questions that may come up and how they should answer them. Draw from your own big-moment experiences to provide valuable coaching for your team members.
Be available, even after the fact.
Just like the circle of life, in leadership, there will inevitably come a time when an employee that you’ve invested in is ready to take that leap and move out from under your wing. Many leaders make the mistake of believing that’s when their job is done. Outstanding leaders, however, know it isn’t. In fact, now’s the perfect time to provide even more support and guidance, such as advice on how they can get off to a great start in their new role. Remind them of their strengths and reinforce what they need to work on in order to succeed.
And be available. There will almost certainly be times when an employee you’ve mentored will want to circle back for more advice and coaching. Keep the door open. Not only will forging this ongoing partnership make them more successful, but it could very well help you advance your own career down the road.