A few months ago I spoke at a conference about maximizing the talents of the Millennial Generation, and integrating them into this multigenerational workplace. After the conversation I had a few leaders approach me to tell me that they liked what I had to say. That was quickly followed by, “That’s all well and good, but if I have to hear a Millennial tell me one more time that they want to be promoted after they have only been here for a cup of coffee, I will explode!”. As I tell my daughter, I put on my listening ears, and just let them vent. Most of the comments to follow involved phrases like “paying their dues”, “who do they think they are”, “they aren’t ready”, etc. The conversation, albeit one sided, then shifted to the ultimatum. The leaders had each heard their team members tell them that if they couldn’t advance then they were going to find somewhere that they could.
When they had exhausted every cliché and stereotype they could, I asked them a question. I simply asked if they had taken the time to work with their team member to create and execute a development plan? Crickets. Some of them fell back on the corporate required development plan that is usually attached to a review that is tended to once or twice a year. As they talked through it they all unilaterally agreed that they had really not done much to set their team members down the right path.
I grabbed a cocktail napkin from the breakout session, and we jotted some notes down. We identified a few key points that each of their team members asked about, and then several things that they could have been proactive about to engage their future leaders. The synthesis was as follows:
- What is the next position you are looking to advance to?
- What specific steps have you taken to help get yourself there?
- What are some of the key traits of the best leader or leaders you have worked for? How can we develop these in you?
- What does growth look like to you?
- Create a Development Plan for each leader and up and comer on your team that is visited monthly.
- Development plans should contain specific actions that your team member can accomplish both in the short term and long term.
- There should be a direct link to where they are looking to go, as well as an element that puts them out of their comfort zone.
- Development plans should by instructional and aspirational.
After a 20 minute conversation, we ultimately determined that most of their team members would have been engaged if there was a road map to success that was not one size fits all. Sure the form could be pretty standardized, but by taking into account different growth paths, and different definitions of growth, these plans would provide both sides with a common language and guidelines for advancement.
In my experience as a leader, I have found that if people know where they are going, and know someone is invested in them, then trust will be established and real growth can begin.
If someone approaches you and asks why they have not been promoted, and you know they are not ready, then ask yourself what you have done to guide them on their journey. The only person you should be frustrated with is yourself. Growth is a two-way street, and when you put forth the effort, you will see your retention and engagement skyrocket.
What techniques have you found successful when trying to advance members of your team? Development plans are just one small step in the process.
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JLH Leadership Solutions