Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Organizations Need and Employees Want

Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Organizations Need and Employees Want

Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Organizations Need and Employees Want

Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Organizations Need and Employees Want


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The new edition of the bestselling employee development classic includes advice on engagement and retention in today's more flexible employment environment and a new chapter on creating a career development culture in your organization.

Study after study confirms that career development is the single most powerful tool managers have for driving retention, engagement, productivity, and results. But most managers feel they just don't have time for it. This book offers a better way: frequent, short conversations with employees about themselves, their goals, and the business that can be integrated seamlessly into the normal course of business.

Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni identify three broad types of conversations that will increase employees' awareness of their strengths, weaknesses, and interests; point out where their organization and their industry are headed; and help them pull all of that together to create forward momentum. And the new chapter includes an assessment so you can measure how well your current culture supports development—and how to improve it.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781523097500
Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers
Publication date: 01/15/2019
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 221,723
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Beverly Kaye is the founder of Career Systems International. She was recently honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Talent Development for her groundbreaking and continual contributions to workplace learning. She is the coauthor of several books, including five editions of Love 'Em or Lose 'Em.

Julie Winkle Giulioni works with organizations worldwide to improve performance through leadership and learning. Named one of Inc. magazine's top 100 leadership speakers, she consults, teaches, speaks, and writes about career development and a variety of workplace topics.

Read an Excerpt


Develop Me or I'm History!

Spending forty-sixty-eighty hours somewhere each week ... I want it to mean something. I want to feel like I'm moving forward somehow. If I can't grow here, I've gotta look elsewhere.

— An employee (perhaps yours)

The decision to assume a management role in today's workplace comes with a front-row seat to some of the greatest business challenges of our time. Day in and day out, you must

Do more with less. It's become cliché, but it permeates life at work. You've likely become a master at finding ways to reduce costs, time, and other resources below levels you ever imagined were possible.

Navigate unprecedented uncertainty and complexity. The un-knowns outnumber the knowns today. Yet others look to you for clarity and direction in an increasingly unpredictable environment.

Meet ever-expanding expectations. Every quarter, you're asked to do a little (or a lot) more. Bigger sales. Greater numbers of service interactions. More projects. Higher scores.

Continuously improve quality. Good enough isn't. Given the competition in today's global market, perfection is the standard — until it's met and you have to do even better.

Deliver the next big thing. Most organizations believe that if they're not moving forward, they're sliding backward. Innovation gets its picture on business magazine covers because it represents the promise of greater success.

And, no matter how long, hard, or smart you work, you can't do all of this alone. Success depends upon tapping the very best that everyone has to offer. (By everyone, we're not just talking about employees — because the workforce has dramatically grown to include gig workers, contingent support, contractors and consultants, interns and even externs.) So today, your success rests upon finding ways to continuously expand everyone's capacity, engagement, and ability to contribute to the organization.

Study after study confirms that best-in-class managers — those who consistently develop the most capable, flexible, and engaged teams able to drive exceptional business results — all share one quality: they make career development a priority.


Even during challenging economic times, your best and brightest have options. Failing to help them grow can lead employees to take their talents elsewhere. They become "history." But what can be equally damaging as this talent drain are the employees who stay and become disengaged. Their bodies show up for work every day but their commitment has quit.

So, if career development is a tool that can deliver what organizations need most — productivity gains, expense reduction, retention, quality improvements, innovation, and bottom-line results-why isn't everyone using it?


Perhaps it's frequently forgotten because the term career development strikes fear into managers' hearts.

Whatever your answer, we'll bet that ours is simpler. You see, many managers are intimidated by or steer clear of career development because they have a mistaken, outdated, or overwhelming definition of the term.

So try this definition on for size:

Helping others grow can take a nearly unlimited number of forms. On one end of the continuum, you help employees prepare for and move to new or expanded roles in obvious and visible ways. But far more frequently, growth shows up on the other end of the continuum, in small, subtle ways that quietly create greater challenge, interest, and satisfaction in a job.

The problem is that too often, career development evokes images of forms, checklists, and deadlines. And let's be honest — the organization needs you to comply with these processes and systems to support important human resources planning work. But administrative details are not career development. Unfortunately, these artifacts too frequently overshadow the true art of development.

Genuine, meaningful, and sustainable career development occurs through the human act of conversation.

Whether it's a formal individual development planning (IDP) meeting or an on-the-fly connection, it's the quality of the conversation that matters most to employees. That's how they judge your performance and their development. That's also how they make the decision to go or stay — or to stay and disengage.

So, if it really is as simple as just talking to people, why isn't career development a more common feature of the organizational landscape?


Over the years, managers — by sharing oral history and spinning lore — have created and continue to propagate several myths. And these myths (read: reasons or excuses) keep them from having the very career conversations their employees want. Which are familiar to you?

Myth 1 — There is simply not enough time.

No one will argue that time is among the scarcest resources available to managers today. But let's get real. You're having conversations already — probably all day long. What if you could redirect some of that time and some of those conversations to focus on careers?

Myth 2 — If I don't talk about it, they may not think about it and the status quo will be safe.

Why invite problems? Developing people could lead them to leave and upset the balance of your well-running department, right? Wrong. Employees have growth on their minds-whether you address it or not. Withholding these conversations is a greater danger to the status quo than engaging in them.

Myth 3 — Since employees need to own their careers, it's not my job.

No one will argue that managers own the development of their employees' careers. Employees do. But that doesn't mean that managers are completely off the hook. You have an essential role in helping and supporting others to take responsibility. And that role plays out in large part through conversation.

Myth 4 — Everyone wants more, bigger, or better: promotions, raises, prestige, power.

If you believe this one, you likely view career development as a confounding no-win situation. Because these things you imagine others want are in woefully short supply, it's understandable that many managers would avoid a potentially disappointing and demoralizing conversation. But based on our research, the fundamental assumption behind this response is patently inaccurate. When asked about what they want to get out of a career conversation with their managers, the numberone response from employees is "ways to use my talents creatively."

Myth 5 — Development efforts are best concentrated on high potentials, many of whom already have plans in place.

This one's a cop-out. You can indeed see a significant return on the development you invest in your high potentials. But they make up only about 10 percent of your population — maybe less. You probably have another 10 percent of marginal performers who are on a very different kind of plan — hopefully fewer. But what about the 80 percent in between — the massive middle responsible for doing the bulk of the work? Imagine what even a small investment in their development might yield.

If you're like most managers, a few of these myths likely make sense to you. Dog-ear or bookmark this page and come back to it after you've completed the book. We predict that when you are introduced to a different way of looking at your role, you may also look at career development and these myths a little differently.

But, until then, remember this: growing the business means growing people. Forget that-and the rest is history.

What IF ...

* you reframed how you think about career development?

* growth really was as simple as conversing with employees?

* managers could break through the myths that undermine their success and their employees' growth?


Can We Talk?

I'm realistic. I know your time is tight and that you've got lots of other priorities. My career probably isn't at the top of your list. Don't worry — I've gotten the message that I own my career. I just need a thinking partner who'll help me step back every once in a while and focus on my development.

— An employee (perhaps yours)

If you're like most managers, you care. You've become accustomed to taking on more and more, expanding your job description with countless "other duties as assigned" — and even some that aren't. Developing the careers of the people who report to you is on a growing (read: crushing) list of to-dos.

What if you could reimagine your role around helping others grow? What if you reframed this task (which, let's face it, gets put on the back burner most of the time anyway) in such a way that responsibility rests squarely with the employee? What if your role was more about prompting, guiding, reflecting, exploring ideas, activating enthusiasm, and driving action rather than actually doing all the work?

Guess what? That's how it should be. And that's how you help people take responsibility for their careers. That's also how you can fit career development into your already full day.

Somehow the simple human act of helping people grow has gotten very complicated — processes on top of checklists with references to resource guides — and the to-do list keeps growing. Is it any wonder that you want to steer clear?

But managers who do this well cut through the clutter and have figured out what employees really need. And it's much more basic than you might imagine.

For years we've heard that talk is cheap. Not true.

Astute managers have gotten comfortable with talking more and doing less. These are no slugs — they're strategists. They appreciate the power of conversations to inspire and generate change in others.

Conversation has the power to touch employees' hearts and minds more deeply than the well-intentioned steps you might take on their behalf. You need nothing more than your own words to inspire reflection and commitment. From that can spring employee-generated actions, actions that employees own, actions that will help them realize their personal definitions of success.

Career development is all about the conversation.

Genuine career development is not about forms, choreographing new assignments, or orchestrating promotions. It's about the quality of the conversations between a manager and an employee, conversations that are designed to

* Facilitate insights and awareness

* Explore possibilities and opportunities

* Inspire responses that drive employee-owned action


Responding to the ever-quickening pace of business, many organizations are rethinking a variety of time-honored (and time-consuming) practices. For instance, performance appraisals, once the centerpiece of management, are being eliminated or reconstituted in very different ways.

So what about career development? If you're like the vast majority of managers expected to operate at the speed of business, you may no longer feel that you have the luxury of annual or semiannual career dialogues.

And that's not a problem — it's actually an opportunity. Because you don't have to hold lengthy summits with employees, solving all of the career problems of the world in one big meeting to help others get results. In fact, in many cases less can be more.

When you reframe career development in terms of ongoing conversations — rather than procedural checkpoints or scheduled activities — suddenly you have more flexibility and the chance to develop careers organically, when and where authentic opportunities arise.


An interaction doesn't require a minimum threshold to count as a conversation. You don't get more points for length. You get more points for stimulating thinking.

Would you rather ...

Note: Do the math. It's the same 120 minutes just offered up in smaller, bite-size servings.

Increasingly, organizations and the time-starved managers within them are opting for shorter, more frequent conversations that can cover the same ground as their heftier cousins (maybe more) but in an iterative and ongoing fashion. The benefits are compelling:

* Shorter conversations fit better with the cadence of business today.

* Frequent, ongoing dialogue communicates a genuine commitment to the employee and development.

* Iterative conversations allow employees to layer awareness, insights, and action more naturally.

* The ongoing nature of the conversation keeps development alive in everyone's mind (as opposed to tucking it away for a formal meeting).

* These frequent exchanges sustain momentum, fuel progress, and act as an ongoing reminder of the organization's commitment to employee learning, growth, and progress.

Some call it embedded. Others on-the-fly or in-the-moment. We call it a contemporary solution to a perennial problem. Short, targeted, ongoing career conversations are efficient — for you and the employee — because they happen within the workflow where genuine opportunities exist.


Think about the most interesting and engaging conversations you've experienced. Either you got to do most of the talking or the dialogue moved fluidly back and forth, allowing everyone to share airtime evenly. Now, forget all that.

A career conversation is completely unbalanced in favor of your employees. If you do your job well, they will be doing 90 percent of the talking. If you're talking more than the remaining 10 percent, you're likely taking on too much responsibility for employees' development and robbing them of ownership for their careers.

Striking this unbalance requires a particular skill on the part of the manager: asking quality questions.

If the work of career development happens within the context of conversation, the primary tool of the trade must be the question.

Thoughtfully conceived and well-timed questions make things happen. They

* Provoke reflection, constructive discomfort, insight, ideas, and action in others

* Keep the focus squarely on the employee

* Demonstrate that you respect and value the other person

* Reinforce the shift of ownership for development to the employee

We are so sold on the value of questions, that we've included one hundred throughout this book.


Questions are a powerful tool. Add the spirit of curiosity, and you've got an unbeatable combination.

But, let's face it — curiosity doesn't come quite as naturally or easily to us as adults as it did when we were kids.

Blame it on time scarcity or information overload or our search-engine culture that reinforces a laserlike focus on what we think we want to know.

Whatever is to blame, there's a powerful case for overcoming it, because curiosity is not just informative — it's also transformative.

People recognize and respond deeply to genuine curiosity on the part of their leaders. It leaves them feeling cared for, valued, validated, and like they matter — all of which fuels stronger relationships, retention, and results.

If you answered "no" to four or more of the questions, you have an opportunity to cultivate greater curiosity. But you're likely an overachiever and realize that even one "no" offers a chance for improvement.

Curiosity might be the most under-the-radar and undervalued leadership competency in business today. Think about it: What could you accomplish if you practiced passionate listening — really listening with intention and a true sense of purpose to learn and understand? What possibilities could you cultivate if you honed your ability to wonder out loud with those around you? What innovations and breakthroughs might you spark if you could bring new eyes and genuine inquisitiveness to old relationships and problems?


Excerpted from "Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni.
Excerpted by permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Development Debunked 1

1 Develop Me or I'm History! 8

2 Can We Talk? 16

3 Let Hindsight Light the Way 32

4 Feed Me 44

5 What's Happening? 56

8 If Not Up … Then What? 68

7 Same Seat, New View 78

8 Advancing Action 90

9 Grow with the Flow 106

10 Culture Shift 114

Conclusion: The Development Difference 125

Acknowledgments 129

Index 131

About the Authors 135

Working with the Authors 139

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