We’re lucky when we have an employee that is ambitious, driven, and committed to doing quality work. Intrinsic motivation can be hard to come by. With driven employees, like a laser beam, you only need to point them in a direction and remove roadblocks for them.
Sometimes as managers, we don’t know how to handle these moments. When, for the third time in 6 months, you’ve faced the same question, “How can I grow here?” and you aren’t sure how to deflect for the third time.
Whether subconsciously or not, doing this can hurt our employees.
There are egregious examples of bad management: From taking credit for an idea, never surfacing an idea, hiding problems, placing blame, “quiet firing,” to generally not following the window-mirror principle, managers can bungle their way to a resignation letter if they ignore their employee’s career aspirations.
But what about the new managers, the ones that just aren’t sure how to guide their staff yet, and can’t seem to get out ahead of their eagerness? As you can imagine with a motivated employee, you can’t kick the can down the road for so long.
The risk if you don’t?
Poor retention is expensive, but so is complacency and disconnection. Basically, you’ll burn them out and they’ll leave, or worse, you’ll burn them out and they’ll stay.
And as recent trends show, no one’s loyal anymore, on the side of the employer or employee. If a manager tries to suppress growth – whether consciously or not intentionally at all – and they’ll have people going straight around them. Those optics are really not better than the alternative, which is their employee succeeding under their management!
The upside if you do?
A more effective, collaborative team, plus the results to show it. When employees work better together, they produce better, and faster. When employees feel supported by their manager, they feel more confident to make good decisions on their own, take risks, push things forward, learn new things, and generally be more efficient. You’ll benefit from the new skills they’re building if you find ways to apply them in their day-to-day creatively.
It’s never worth risking hitting the goals to play work politics. Protect psychological safety and team cohesion, and you’ll be celebrating milestones instead of figuring out how to place blame.
Here are eight ways that managers can support their workforce, whether remote or not:
Pay attention to their strengths. When you take the time to observe your employees, spot-check their work, do early check-ins and course correct when needed, you’ll uncover a whole array of things your staff does really, really well. When you have new projects that align with those strengths, train them in this skill and then give them ownership over that aspect of the project. Over time, you learn by doing and flex a growing responsibility muscle at the same time.
Send them through all the in-house training you have. You likely have a wealth of experts at more senior levels across departments. Tap into your in-house expertise and set up lunch and learns and mini-trainings throughout the year. Organize a monthly masterclass and volun-tell some experts to lead a session. Create channels for knowledge sharing and record experiments and their results in public places. Record all training sessions and file them in a shared employee workspace. The side benefit to making all these new connections is that your employee will also now be empowered to ask the right people for help when they need it.
I typically require employees to complete all in-house training related to their role before they are eligible to use learning and development funds. Don’t have one yet? Start with this management training for the modern manager.
Offer opportunities for ad hoc and IRL learning and development in their area. Sign up for newsletters in your department’s function area, and pay attention to virtual events. Carve out time and adjust priorities so your team can pop into webinars, take courses, and make time for virtual networking. Pay attention to when in-person events take place in a city near one of your employees. Getting them out IRL to network and learn, is an amazing change of pace for a remote worker.
Give them ownership over continuous learning. Set the expectation that they will seek out new learning opportunities and resources on their own. Create a template for a learning proposal, and set aside a budget for each employee to use each year for courses or workshops. With the right opportunities, coaching, and ownership, you’ll create space for inspired action within your budding leaders.
Provide mentorship and coaching. Pair employees with experienced mentors or coaches who can provide guidance and support as they work towards their development goals. Buddy systems, “virtual office hours”, and bringing speakers in-house can introduce your staff to more thought leaders. Encourage them to make a list of local experts or meetups that they could join in person to build business social confidence.
Formalize it. Ask your staff to create personal and professional growth goals that can be formalized in an “Individual Development Plan” (IDP) or employee vision. Outline the hard and soft skills the employee wants to improve, the milestones/goals they need to achieve to provide the evidence and add a timeline that you can revisit in 1:1s and performance reviews.
Create a growth-oriented work environment. Foster the kind of work culture that encourages employees to take risks, try new things, and learn from their experiences, without the fear of repercussion. Give them projects that stretch their comfort zones and require leveling up in certain areas to accomplish more challenging tasks, and create a space where they can feel heard.
Celebrate wins! This one is probably the most important. Everyone responds well to positive reinforcement. Take the time to celebrate wins, cement milestones in employees’ memories, and build upon their confidence and experience.
Help employees strive for their full potential, and they’ll contribute success in unique ways to your organization; engendering more loyalty to your mission.
What happens if they do leave?
Okay so what if the person does build all of these skills and you invest all sorts of time into them and energy mentoring them and then they do leave and bring their talents elsewhere?
Nine times out of ten, it was the right time for that person to move on. Maybe their career vision is taking them somewhere else, and it’s better when they don’t overstay and flounder. Sometimes change is necessary. Most of the time, my reports end up getting promoted into different departments, and I get to continue to enjoy working with them and they continue to contribute to the business.
Other times, they jump ship and go to a competitor.
That risk exists anyway. I can’t do anything about it except to support them, check in with them, pay them competitively, inspire them, and genuinely show them that I care about their growth and development and that staying here is the best opportunity for that.
Instead, I invest my time, energy, and skills into proving that to them by supporting them. In return, they reinvest their learnings and creativity back into the business.