7 practical tips for managers to navigate career discussion with direct reports
In an earlier guide, we outline the process that individuals can adapt to have a successful career discussion with their managers. We highlight that every individual is responsible for their career progression and should drive career discussion meetings. However, as a manager, it is your responsibility to ensure that your reports feel comfortable discussing their professional development sessions and they are presented with opportunities that will help them grow.
In this guide we have share seven tips that the managers can implement to make the career discussion meeting a success for their reports –
This tip is easy – unless unavoidable, do not cancel or request to reschedule the career discussion meetings. Your report has most likely spent time planning for the meeting, and this meeting is probably on the top of their mind. By cancelling or rescheduling, you are essentially reflecting priority of this meeting to be lower for you, which will impact the trust the employee has in the team or company. In a survey of 10.5K job changers, conducted by LinkedIn, “concerns for career development” was cited as the top reason of leaving the job. In fact, 45% of the respondents left the job because they did not see opportunities for advancement in their current role.
It is usually the report’s responsibility to share the agenda for this meeting, however, don’t be a silent spectator. Familiarize yourself with the agenda and come prepared to the meeting for an active discussion. We have outlined a few ways in which you can prepare –
Career discussion meetings are a great forum to give informal feedback to your reports. The idea of the meeting is to work together towards achieving your report’s career goals and retrospective feedback is a key component to that. If needed, gather feedback from your report’s co-workers and stakeholders ahead of the meeting and combine that with your own personal feedback for them. The feedback should be well rounded and should clearly outline their superpowers (something that they are good at), accomplishments (something they might have achieved in the last few weeks) and scope of improvement (skills that they should be improving)
Every individual is motivated by different things – working towards the next promotion, getting to flex a specific skillset, the team vision, the people, or money. Knowing what keeps your report going will help you customize your discussion and opportunities to fit with your report’s vision and their professional growth. If your report wants to build a product, then presenting them with opportunities to build a team will not help them achieve their goals.
It is very easy for career discussion meetings to turn into mentoring sessions or philosophical – this often does not lead to actionable results. While this is a good time to mentor your report or share relevant feedback, it is important to stick to the agenda and ensure that you’re driving towards achieving the expected outcome. If you think the end outcome cannot be achieved, communicate that to your report as soon as possible to reset expectations.
Like any other meeting, career discussion meetings should end in tangible next steps or action items. While you might be tempted to end the discussion at “You can own <PQR> project to build your <XYZ> skillset to achieve <ABC> goal”, convert this into SMART goals to derive maximum value from the discussion. SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) goals ensure that the employee is setup for success and the goal will be met in a certain time frame.
You can create SMART goals by using the following mental model –
This holds the key to a successful career discussion. Once you and your report have outlined the career development plan, discuss what mechanisms should be set to enforce the plan. The type of mechanism can be a personal choice. A few ideas of a follow-up mechanism are –
Lastly, ask for meeting minutes to stay aligned on discussions and decisions taken in the meeting. This will foster a culture of documentation and your reports are more likely to send meeting minutes for other meetings as well. Our guide on writing effective meeting minutes outlines a methodical way to write and share meeting minutes.