3 steps to help your team member answer the question "what are your career goals"

One of the most powerful conversations you can have as a leader or manager is about your team member's goals. You heard that right, not about company KPI's or how to help on a certain project, but what your people want to achieve in their careers.

After talking to a lot of managers or leaders, a lot of them don't always know how to react when their team member says that he or she "doesn't know where I want to go to in my career." And that's okay, a lot of people don't know what they would like to be doing for the rest of their professional lives, certainly for those who are fresh out of university. However, a manager can play a pivitol role in helping their team members discover their long term goals for growth and career development. Invest some time in this as it has a major impact on people's drive, motivation, and engagement. And one can never have too much of that in a time, right?

But what can you do concretely to help when people don't know? Sometimes you have to start small to end up big. Finding out the answer of what you're team member is meant to do won't come after 1 meeting. It will take some time and consistent coaching. Here are 3 steps to get you started:


1. Map strengths & energy givers

Everyone has things that they're good at. And as a manager there is a lot of value in knowing the strengths of your people. Gallup's recent "State of the Manager" shows that employees who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged at work.

Ask your team member what he believes are his strengths. Take the effort yourself to reflect on what your team member excels at and where they demonstrate potential. Discuss this together. Are there similarities? Some surprises?


As a follow-up you could take some time during your weekly F2F with your team member to reflect on what they were good at for the past week? What gave them energy? What took away their energy? Start mapping this information on a consistent basis. After a while you will see some patterns popping up. When it becomes clear what that person's main strengths are and what gives them energy, start iterating on possible roles or projects that focusses on their strengths (step2).

A bonus of talking to someone about their strengths is how much they’re likely to appreciate being recognized for things they work hard on and show passion for. Never underestimate the power of telling someone you believe in them or that they could be great at something.

2. Iterate on possibilities

Once it is clear what are your team member's main strengths and energy givers, it's time to start reflecting together on possible future roles and jobs. To reveal these options, asking following questions can give them some direction:

  • What job let's you do … (insert strengths) and gives you … (insert energy giver)?

  • What would be the best part about this job?

  • What would be the least enjoyable parts of the job?

  • What are the critical skills you need to have to succeed in this job?

If they don't know the answer to some questions, don't hesitate to put them into contact with people that are already doing some jobs that you think would be a good fit for that person. Or maybe there is a project in your team or another team where he/she could try out some things and further develop critical skills? Rather than working on a detailled plan on how they can build a complete skillset to be ready for a new role, give them an opportunity to try out some things. This will make it safer for them to change their mind should they learn more and realize it’s not for them.

3. Start small


After figuring out what are your team member's strengths and talents, what's giving them energy, roles that they would like to take up in the future, the next way to experiment is to look for small projects they can get involved in. If the work they are interested in is within the scope of your team, then getting them involved in that area is easy. Just assign it. If it is for another team, talk to that team’s leader and consider small opportunities such as a buddy system, managing a summer intern, a live my life experience etc.

There is nothing better than getting a real experience. Being involved in any kind of project could give them a feel for what they’re doing and whether it fits what they would like to be doing in the future. Just remind them that everyone starts out a as a beginner, so the question isn’t if they’re already great at something. Instead, the real question is if they’re interested enough in it to want to work hard to become great at it.


After a few iterations on these different steps, it will become more clear to that person what he would like to evolve towards. So don't panic if it's not clear yet after one try. Rome wasn't built in a day either, right?


Try it out and let us know how it went!


Are you a young and ambitious team lead in a creative agency of scale-up? Do you want to create a happy and top performing team? We're launching a program soon that will help you do just that, feel free to book your intake call with us for more information via this link.

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