You’ve got employees who want to learn new skills or get better at what they already know how to do. You want to help. But you’re not a teacher – and don’t want to be. You don’t have all the answers. And even after attending a coaching workshop and reading about it a little, you’re still not sure you can do whatever it is you’re supposed to do.
How about managing? How about doing what you know how to do?
Let me explain.
One of the key things managers do with their people is to set goals, figure out how to accomplish the goal(s), develop a plan, implement the plan and follow up periodically. To a greater or lesser extent, this happens with assignments; it happens with projects; and it happens with development. In other words, most managers – and lots of other people – already have the basic skills to support an employee’s development. And when it comes to development, that is the manager’s job.
Let’s get a bit more specific. What does that look like? What’s reasonable to expect of the manager in this situation? What’s reasonable to expect of the employee?
A Process for Figuring out who’s responsible for what
I suggest a discussion that focuses on two questions. The manager answers his or her version; the employees answer theirs. Then they discuss and decide what to do.
- What should we reasonably expect of the manager during the development process?
- What should the manager reasonably expect of me/us?
The manager answers two similar questions:
- What should I reasonably expect of the employees during the development process?
- What should the employees reasonably expect of me during the development process?
I emphasize reasonable because people often have unreasonable expectations about development.
I’ve asked groups of managers and non-managers to answer these questions. Here are selected answers. First, what are reasonable expectations of employees during the development process?
- Believes he or she can achieve the development goal
- Takes the initiative to identify possible solutions before coming to the manager, if things aren’t going as expected
- Will not waste the manager’s time
- Willing to accept that resource limitation might alter the goal and/or plans
- Manages themselves/their time well enough so that they can accomplish regular work assignments and their development assignment(s)
- Is motivated to accomplish the goal and knows how to stay motivated
- Is realistic about how well he/she is doing; can assess progress on their own or with input from others
- Is able to accept feedback from the manager or appropriate others without getting defensive
- Knows that making mistakes is all right as long as mistakes decrease over time and the same mistakes are not repeated
- Does not believe that failure equals being a failure
Here are selected answers to the question What are reasonable expectations of the manager during the development process:
- Express confidence that the employee can do it
- Does not act like this is a waste of time
- Provides or helps obtain resources and introductions to people who can help, if needed
- Provide feedback
- Meet with the employee regularly to discuss how things are going
- If the employee is stuck, helps him/her figure it out. Doesn’t provide the answer.
- Arranges work expectations/schedule so that doing the development assignment will not lead to failure on the job
- Helps the employee stay on track
- Does not punish the employee for making mistakes so long as the mistakes decrease over time and I don’t keep making the same mistakes
- Does not believe that failure to learn something equals being a failure.
Notice the expectations are complementary.
The employees want managers to manage. They’re not looking for a teacher. The want the managers to obtain resources and contacts the employees could not obtain on their own that could help with their development; engage in problem solving – not provide the answers; have confidence that the employee can accomplish the development goal and believe that the goal is worth accomplishing.
Managers want the employee to take charge of their learning; be proactive problem solvers; know where they stand in terms of their progress; accept feedback; and accept that there are limitations in terms of time and other resources.
Summing it up:
Do not let old ways of thinking about development get in the way.
Use the skills you have.
Manage the development process.