Sometimes we get so caught up in our own careers we forget about the people who work with us. They too have career goals and ambitions. However, we don’t always take the time to listen and figure out what their aspirations are. I found out the hard way.
It was time for my annual review and I was feeling pretty good about it. I had one of the best operations in the district and half expected the red carpet to be rolled out for me. That was not the case! The review started out as I had expected. I was thanked for my performance throughout the year and congratulated for my team’s top performance. Then lightning struck. My manager asked me if my people were ready to take my place. He asked me if I would recommend anyone of my people to step in and do what I currently do.
To those who manage employees, this answer should come instinctively. I drew an immediately blank. I realized that I lost focus of my people and their development. My attention centered around achieving results so much so that I lost touch of the people who helped me reach those goals. It was a necessary but embarrassing moment. This was my mangers way of telling me what I was lacking, development.
I needed to be more proactive in my employees’ development. My manager was right. My employees were uncertain about the direction of their career and where their future lies in the organization. After hearing this, I knew that I had really failed.
I encourage you not to make the same mistake. Take a moment to set aside time with your employees and ask them about their goals. Use this information to help them develop in their areas of interest. Be as proactive about their career as you are about yours. Make their development a priority and schedule regular meetings to accomplish this. Don’t differentiate their development from yours, they are one in the same.
We are all looking to get ahead in our careers. But what are corporations looking for? What we have been told is a combination of business skills we have learned in school lumped into one big package. That package is the ideal candidate for a promotion. I have been fortunate enough to be involved in the promotion process and my past four years in HR have revealed that it comes down to a few core principles.
Never underestimate the value or power of work ethic. Shortcomings in other areas can be offset by an individual willing to do “whatever it takes”. This trait never goes unnoticed or undiscovered. Not only will it reflect in the work of the person but in their attitude and demeanor. This is someone that takes the extra step, although it can be difficult, to make sure things get completed. It seems that this has become rarer and rarer to find. The great news is it is 100% controllable so put in the extra effort and reap the rewards.
This ownership incorporates a few things. Ownership of yourself, your actions, and the actions of those you lead and work with. We all know those who are quick to pass the buck. When a problem occurs it is never them. Let’s reverse that train of thought and think about people we know who take ownership of their own actions and those they work with or manage. Not as easy to come up with. This is what separates leaders from followers. The few individuals who always accept responsibility emerge as leaders. They continue to learn from their mistakes and grow from them because they take ownership of their actions.
Accountability has two facets. Accountability of those you manage and accountability of yourself to follow through with commitments. Accountability is necessary to achieve results. Think of great teams or workgroups who are successful. The players or individuals in that group hold each other accountable. Without this, nothing gets done. Individuals who are successful learn how to hold themselves and their people accountable to meet goals and expectations. At the end of the day, it is much easier said than done.
I had the opportunity to listen to a speech given by one of the executive presidents of my company. His speech was short and concise. He asked all of us in the room what it took to get ahead. Everything from promptness to education was mentioned. He said one thing, Integrity. He continued and said always do the right thing. Never take shortcuts or compromise your integrity for anyone or anything. Essentially, it is what you do when no one is looking. It may take a lifetime to build a reputation but only one incident to ruin it. Nothing else means anything without integrity.
Human resources is often involved in employee relations issues that have spun out of control. The situation usually revolves around an employee that does not seem to “get it”. These disciplinary talks usually involve the employee’s immediate manager or supervisor and an hr representative. In most instances, the management team is partly responsible for allowing the employee to get out of line.
Many of these problems can be traced back to the message we are delivering to the employee. Think back to a time where you had to have a serious conversation with an employee that broke a policy or simply did not do what was asked of them. How did you go about this conversation?
The first step should be to gather your thoughts. Start with the outcome in mind. What is it that you want to accomplish from the discussion. Have this be the basis of your strategy for the conversation. Back up your opinion with specific, accurate, and factual information. Be objective and direct with the message you want to convey. The tone and delivery should be consistent with the message being communicated. If the employee has an attendance problem, have their record on hand and show it to them. Tell them it will not be tolerated and unacceptable of any employee. The unwanted behavior or incident needs to be clearly outlined and the company’s stance given in a straightforward manner. Explain frankly, the consequences of not following the instructions given and get a written commitment from the individual. This written commitment needs to include details of the conversation, expectations of the employee, and their understanding of the consequences of another occurrence.
Pitfalls of disciplinary reviews usually lie in the message. Managers that are indirect or bring in other irrelevant situations lose credibility with the employee. Sending mixed messages is another common mistake. Don’t end the conversation with a warm and fuzzy or change the subject. End it with a mutual understanding of what is expected. The employee needs to leave understanding that they made a mistake. When the message is communicated poorly, it fosters bad behavior. Providing the employee with the right message is the right thing to do.