“I need help managing up.”

“What do you mean, managing up?

“You know, managing my boss.”

“Define for me what managing your boss means to you”

“Getting her to ……”

Ever been in a situation where you feel you have to manage your boss. I have many clients come to me wanting to work on the skills and behaviors to “manage up”.

Here is my interpretation of “managing up”. It is managing how your leader/boss perceives you.
Yep, it is about you and your reputation.

For instance. If your boss is a micro manager you want to “manage” your boss to stop micro managing you. You want to be perceived as a capable autonomous operator not requiring micromanagement.

Here are my thoughts on what you should consider when “managing up”.

Two basic overarching thoughts: 1) Think strategically, at least two levels above your position and for the long & short term and 2) think of your boss as your most important client.

With those themes consider the following three elements:
– Needs – what does your leader/boss need?
– Expectations – what are the expectations of your boss?
– Evaluation – how is your boss being evaluated?

The three themes can be thought of as overlapping circles. Each impacting the other two.

Let’s add more detail. Thinking strategically several levels above your supervisor allows you to take on multiple perspectives. It also forces you to dig for some information. Such as company goals, directions, and pressures on your boss.

Your boss as the most important client. That should motivate you to listen better. What are her goals, pressures, and concerns? This may take some investigation and is a long-term project. Consider how to weave these into your regular one-on-ones.

Now from your boss’s perspective, think of the three concerns of; needs, expectations, and evaluation.

What does your boss need? If you are pitching a project or proposal, what does she need? Take your boss’s strategic view into account.

If you were hiring a contractor to remodel your kitchen, would you consider having the contractor remodel it according to their vision? Of course not. Do you want their input? Absolutely.

We as the subordinate and possible expert, often think we have the right answer? As the boss in the case of the remodel we need to understand the capabilities, limitations, and expertise of the contractor to execute our vision. Same with your boss.

She may need input from you on multiple topics you are unaware of.

What are the boss’s expectations?

The three expectations I believe must be addressed in every endeavor are; timeframe, cost/budget, and quality. You can add as many other items as you like.

Start with clarity on each of these and confirm it over and over. Is your project a short term prototype to prove a concept or a detailed finished product? Two big differences.

Do you know how your work impacts the business at a strategic level? How valuable would that knowledge be to meeting expectations?

Have you ever considered how your boss is being evaluated? What are the metrics? The more you know about the criteria the better you can deliver. If the metric is “Return on Investment” (ROI), that is much different than creating a workable prototype to test a concept. Also, much different than a high quality reproducible product ready for market.

Final Thoughts
Thinking of your boss as “your most important client” can be misinterpreted. This mindset is not always saying “yes”. It is using your expertise to professionally engage with your boss to ensure a positive strategic impact on the organization.

This is not about pleasing the boss. It is about continuously delivering what is needed, as expected, and evaluated based on a known criterion.

How true is this statement for you?

My boss is my most important client and I provide the information/tools/products/services to demonstrate the strategic impact our team makes on our organization’s mission.


You are on a trip, that started a long time ago. As a matter of fact, it is hard to remember exactly when and how it started. The path traveled has shaped you. When asked about previous destinations it is fun, well sometimes, to reminisce about those places and the impact they made on you.

This exercise is designed for you to take the time to reminisce (analyze) about the stops on your leadership journey and understand their impact on your leadership. Maybe even assess how the lessons from those stops may assist you moving forward.

This program will help you do that. Look back at your past, take the lessons learned, and apply them to your future.

Two essential questions will guide your journey:
1. How has your leadership changed over your career?
2. How has the nature of leadership changed during your career?

This reflective exercise will focus on you and your leadership at every phase of your professional life. We will start with you. Then move to those that led you, then those you currently lead. Followed by how the organizations you worked in influenced your leadership. Finally, we’ll take a glance at how the leadership trends of the times influenced you.

For this exercise you will be documenting your leadership journey. Do this in whatever format works for you: computer, journal, notebook etc. Let’s get started.

The goal is to build a depiction of your leadership career. It can be visual, textual, or both.

Think of a timeline with the starting point as your first professional position. Then begin to consecutively add the professional positions you have held. The first position out of college, followed by your promotion, followed by your lateral move to a new division. A master’s degree led to the new title of program manager. Three years later a move to a new city and a new employer.

You are getting the story. Make whatever drawing works for you. A straight timeline, a big S, or multiple pages. The goal is to visually show your professional progress.

Now, consider the following questions and document the answers for each position:
1. How did you land the position?
2. How did you lead in the position?
3. How effective were you?

Be as objective as possible, particularly on question 3. Looking back at copies of performance reviews may be helpful.

Congratulations! You are off to a great start. You have created a high-level road map of your leadership journey. It shows where you started, stops along the way, and what you experienced at each stop.

Next we’ll take a closer look at what you learned at each stop.

Where is your attention when you are on the dance floor? Your moves, your partner, the music, those around you, the space around you?

Can you detect the full flow of the room from the dance floor? The patterns, who’s in, who’s out, the space?

To see the bigger picture, you need to get off the floor and get a better perspective. What would getting up on the balcony do for your perspective?

Are you trying to lead your organization from the dance floor? Here are a couple areas to test yourself.

Take inventory of the meetings you attended as the leader, when the purpose was to solve a problem. How much time did you spend focused on getting the problem to a solution? I am sure you can say, all the time, that was the purpose of the meeting.

I mean what percentage of the time were you fully engaged “hands on” in the problem solving? Did you observe the flow of the room, see who was in and who was out or were you dancing with members of the team? It’s hard to pull back and watch. After all, you were promoted to this role because that is what you do, solve problems.

What ongoing programs are under your cognizance? Take an inventory of your level of immersion in your most challenging program. Are your program managers bringing their challenges to you to solve? If they are, they are asking you to dance. What should they be doing?

Lastly, think about the holistic performance of your organization. Only this time in your mind get on the balcony and play a mental video. What do you see when you zoom in and observe yourself? Where are you and what are you doing?

Visualize a linear spectrum, with the dance floor on the left and the balcony to the right. I would equate the dance floor with tactical engagement and being on the balcony as strategic engagement.

Graphic explaining Engagement


Is a fire chief most effective, actually fighting the fire or observing and directing those fighting the fire? Where are you most effective in leading your organization? How close to the action and what level of tactical interaction makes you and your team most effective?

We have to slow ourselves down and get off the dance floor to get to the balcony. Once there, take the time to observe.

Culturally we defer to individuals higher in the hierarchy. How is your team hierarchy affecting communication on your team?

The weekly staff meeting includes several levels of individuals in the organization. The meeting led by the CEO, includes VP’s and Directors to share updates, set the direction for the week, and make decisions. When decisions are on the table the CEO asks a lot of questions and solicits input. The responses are tepid, particularly on the more contentious issues as the CEO has shown she is not really open to discussion.

She has quickly jumped folks for challenging her or providing input that is contrary to her position. Several senior folks were publicly admonished in front of the team after showing disagreement and challenging her.

Over time the VP’s have begun having pre-meetings to prepare a strategy to deal with the CEO’s opposition to input. The meeting centers on how they can support each other to ensure important information is discussed, as she is not open to opposing views.

In this case, the hierarchy of the team is limiting input and discussion. Interestingly the CEO has stated numerous times she wants open discussion. However, her actions send a different message.

Leading the discussion, making her opinion and view known at the outset of a discussion, and being verbally aggressive, pushing her points are what the team sees. This is also typical behavior outside of meetings.

The hierarchy of this team is having a negative effect on team communication. Deference is the expectation and openness discouraged.

Deference: humble submission and respect.

Openness: lack of restriction; accessibility.

My opinion: leaders act on a spectrum ranging from deference on the left to openness on the right. Leaders who lead expecting deference are limiting their effectiveness.

Deference —————————————————————————————- Openness

Deference: I am in charge, do not challenge me openly. If you do, I will assert myself and show everyone I am in charge.

Openness: I am comfortable holding my opinion or view until I have heard from everyone else. Challenge me on my thinking and I will listen.

The Impact on Team Norms
In this case, the impact on the norms of team communication has been to restrict the flow of honest and important information. To preserve themselves the team is wasting time on strategizing how to communicate with the boss rather than actually communicating.

Frustration, posturing, and possibly withholding information have become parts of the norms.

Personalize this with your own story. Think of two teams, you are associated with; one led by someone else and one you lead.

Reflect on the hierarchy of the team you are part of. Where does the leader fit on the spectrum? What do the leader’s actions tell you? Do they expect deference or openness?

What has been the impact? Based on your answer take a minute and articulate to yourself the team norms around communication for that team. Here are some typical results.

Deference                                                                               Openness

Team members hold information                                      Sharing

Unwilling to articulate challenges                                     Challenges freely expressed

Team members on edge                                                       Team unity

Choose words wisely                                                             Speaks freely

Now, reflect and assess how your team has been communicating with you. Where do you fall on the spectrum?

Some questions that may shed some light on where you are.
– Have you been surprised by events you should have been aware of?
– Do you make the team aware of where you stand on an issue prior to others speaking?
– Does your team regularly bring challenges to meetings with you?
– Does the teamwork on solving issues before bringing them to you?

Based on the above, give a succinct statement about the team norms on communication for your team?

How is the hierarchy affecting the team norms around communication for your team?

I have been a witness to numerous meetings where Jody speaks up, takes the lead in discussions, and readily shares his opinion. However, he is not the lead nor the most capable person to talk about the topic or project. Yet the result; the leadership thinks Jody is a super performer and leader because of the confidence he exudes. All of us, his coworkers, know he is not nearly as capable as other members of the team, yet he was promoted ahead of more capable peers.”

Is Jodys display of confidence a misinterpretation of competence?

In a Harvard Business Review article titled Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders”  Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, makes the argument confidence is often interpreted as competence.

Ever had feelings of disdain for an individual who was arrogant? What was the source of that distain?

Some thoughts to help us consider the answer to that question:

What is competence?

What is confidence?

Competence: How good you are at a task, skill, or talent you possess.

Confidence: How good you think you are at a task, skill, or talent you possess

How does an individuals level of confidence actually correlate to their level of performance or skill?

The conclusion of many; high confidence equals high skill.

This conclusion is rarely confirmed by science. We have all heard of the statistic 80% of drivers believe they are better than average. What is the basis of that decision? It is not data. It likely comes from impressions, emotions, and feelings.

How did Jody get promoted if he is not producing? What was the measurement of his leadership?

What is your experience? On a scale of 1-10, score how true you think the following statements are with 10 being absolute truth and 1 being not true at all.

Highly incompetent individuals inaccurately assess their skills, abilities, and talents.

Highly competent individuals are typically self-critical of their skills, abilities, and talent.

The more capable an individual, the more critical they are of themselves, and aware of their limitations.

The less an individual knows, the less self-aware they are and can portend overconfidence.

My take, the disdain you felt for that arrogant colleague was a result of the overconfidence they exhibit based on their actual ability.

What makes overconfidence so prevalent?

Two reasons. First, many individuals do not have a realistic view of their capabilities, i.e., they think they are above-average drivers. Low self-awareness.

Second, the appearance of confidence gets rewarded. If a display of confidence, whether it is validated by competence, gets recognized, you will see displays of confidence”.

Leadership Impact

In your leadership role, what are you recognizing as competence?

Some objective questions to ask yourself:

  • What measurable criteria am I using to promote and hire for leadership positions?
  • How does a display of confidence influence my view of competence?
  • What am I using to measure competence?
  • How do I view individuals in my organization that is quiet?

We all have biases. For years we have been influenced by stereotypes of confident leaders and see the confidence on lists of the traits of an effective leader. We have popular mantras we listen to such as fake it until you make it” and glamorize the confident decisive leader.

Interview performance is often a dominant deciding factor when hiring or promoting leadership positions. Thats great if the interview actually determines competence. 

Want to have a significant impact on your organization? Develop, hire, and promote competent leaders. Uncover the link between confidence and competence in your leaders. Some possible actions:

  • Make self-awareness a key part of the leadership development of your potential leaders
  • Make evaluations and 360 assessments part of your leadership development program
  • Define measurable metrics for promotion into leadership positions
  • Reduce the weight interviews have on the criteria for leadership selection
  • Make interviews more objective evaluations of knowledge, skills, and abilities
  • Seek out competence in your organization and put it on display

Everyone wants confident, competent leaders. What are you doing in your organization to define it, develop it, and reward it?

Feeling good about your career? You are probably happy with your prospects in life.

You know that coworker who does the minimum and is only there for the paycheck and health insurance. Based on the data compiled by Gallup, she probably does not feel all that great about the rest of her life as well.

Gallup in their recent book Wellbeing at Work connects the data on individuals thriving at work and the impact on their wellbeing for the long term.

Career wellbeing is the number one element affecting overall wellbeing. It is followed by social, financial, physical, and community wellbeing.

If career wellbeing dictates the direction of your wellbeing what impact is your leadership having on your wellbeing? Additionally what impact are you having on the wellbeing of those under your leadership?

What can you do to ensure you and your team thrives?

Let’s summarize a few points from Gallup’s research and look at potential actions.

Gallup Research Overview

Gallup used a survey to query respondents with two-part questions described as below:

Please imagine a ladder with steps numbered from zero at the bottom to 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you.

  • On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time?
  • On which step do you think you will stand about five years from now?

From the results they created categories of Thriving, Struggling, or Suffering.

Thriving: (score of 7-10) positive view of their current and/or future state

Struggling: (score of 5-6) struggling in present situation and are uncertain about the future

Suffering: (score of 0-4) miserable in their current state and have a negative view of the future

The definition of the five elements of wellbeing from Gallup’s research

  • Career wellbeing: You like what you do every day.
  • Social wellbeing: You have meaningful friendships in your life
  • Financial wellbeing: You manage your money well.
  • Physical wellbeing: you have energy to get things done.
  • Community wellbeing: You like where you live.

Coaching Connected to Wellbeing

What if you had someone to work one-on-one with to assist you in creating your desired picture of wellbeing, evaluating your current state, and helping you achieve your ultimate vision. That is a possibility with coaching.

In my coaching, I use a tool called “The Wheel of Life” to assist individuals create a vision of where they want to be in the future. The timeframe is of their choosing and using a scale of 0-10 they create a future vision of their ideal self.

They describe what “10” looks like in 8 areas of their life. The 8 areas correlate closely with Gallup’s 5 elements of wellbeing.

They then evaluate their current status in each of the 8 categories, creating a bumpy wheel. As a team we work on developing a plan of goal setting, behavior change, and action to move towards the outer “10” ring.

10 ring

It is an iterative and learning process. 

Actions for Consideration

Based on the above, what actions are you considering for yourself and your team?

Self-evaluations are always a consideration. Making an objective evaluation of your desired versus your current state is a good starting place. Getting some assistance with that process may be helpful.

What about your team members? Consider the ramification if you were to have individual conversations with each team member using the above as a guide. I have worked one-on-one with individuals and with cohorts in group coaching sessions to experience this process.

Leadership Impact

The ultimate question for leaders is: What is the impact of your leadership on wellness of those you lead?

Career wellness is the foundation of the other wellness elements. You have a direct and significant impact.

How to increase your focus on career wellness and measure that impact may be your next steps to consider.

A Texas couple was visiting Rome on vacation walking to a restaurant. They spent significant time with the hotel concierge, well known for his knowledge of the local restaurants before making their decision. He had made several outstanding recommendations for them this past week after spending some time determining what type of food they enjoyed. Struggling to find the restaurant in the maze of streets in Rome, they spot a family of four with the mom wearing a Texas hat. What a relief, someone they can talk with. Funny coincidence is they are from the same county back home. The couple relates their predicament of being unable to find this highly touted restaurant and wanted to see if they could help them?

Not being familiar with the restaurant or neighborhood the family is unable to provide directions. However, they were able to direct them to a “great” restaurant they just went to last night, their first night ever out of Texas. The couple thanked the family and headed off to the newly recommended restaurant.

Why did this Texas couple “trust” complete strangers who had very little expertise on Italian restaurants in Rome?

  • Common background
  • Friendly connection

There are all types of situations where complete strangers trust each other. Think of a flight crew on an airliner, emergency response personnel at the scene of a mishap, an operating room team. Why then is it so difficult to trust coworkers particularly when we are working remotely?

Let’s look at a remote work situation.

Brenda working remotely was struggling with a marketing project she was assigned after being on the job for two weeks. She was not feeling great about her team at this time due to limited interaction and a perception of ultra-competitiveness. She wanted to reach out for assistance outside of her boss and team but was not sure where she should look. After some thought, she contacted a mentor, Marie from her onboarding process. Marie happened to be an alumnus from the same MBA program. Brenda also made a friendly connection with her, having lunch with Brenda twice during onboarding, and was impressed by her experience.

What Brenda experienced is commonplace for the remote work environment. Isolated, not sure where to turn for assistance, and confessing to your team and boss you need help.

Her solution was also commonplace; reaching out to a colleague she came to trust after several short interactions.

What made Brenda willing to trust Marie, after limited interaction? Cognitive and emotional trust. Assumed reliability and a caring connection.

  • The friendly connection
  • The common MBA program
  • Assumed competence

Let’s continue the story. Marie recommended Brenda contact Robert, who has a background in the area she is struggling in an adjacent department. She does, has a productive meeting, and was able to move forward on her project.

Why is she trusting someone she has not even met?

  • Credibility based on a reputation from someone she trusted

In her book The Remote Work Revolution; Tsedal Neeley identifies two types of trust, cognitive and emotional. Cognitive trust is based on logic and thought. It usually occurs quickly and is based on your belief that the individual is reliable and dependable.

Emotional trust is built on an emotional connection, care, and concern about someone. It can take time to build emotional trust.

Both are important and are in my opinion additive. When you think of the above examples it is clear where the boundaries were.

  • The Texans had cognitive trust – determined quickly through a thought based on a belief of reliability.
  • The concierge had cognitive trust and emotional trust. Proven capability and a personal connection.
  • Marie had cognitive and emotional trust
  • Brenda’s teammate and the boss had neither

What is important in the workplace? Think of your best team experience and categorize the trust that permeated that team. Was it cognitive, emotional or both?

Probably, both.

To make your remote team effective you have to build both. These are built by knowing who you are working with, spending time working and interacting together. We generally trust coworkers immediately because of their position. As we learn more about their credentials, work habits, expertise, and ability to deliver, our trust grows or wanes. This is primarily cognitive trust. Is that enough to be a high-performance team?

The continued interactions, developing personal relationships, support for others, all build emotional bonds. That is where emotional trust is built. If you have no emotional bond or connection, that equals no emotional trust.

Building cognitive and emotional trust in your team requires creating opportunities for interactions that allow both to develop. The concept is simple, execution is challenging.

Currently many remote environments are an “all business” approach. Virtual video meetings, conference calls, and group chats are agenda driven. The time and ability to interact socially, as we often experienced in-person, is significantly reduced.

J. Richard Hackman and Ruth Wageman from Harvard studied team performance for decades and developed what is now called the Six Conditions Model. Their research confirms that leaders who effectively establish the six conditions with their team remove 70% of the variability of team performance. Those six conditions help establish both emotional and cognitive trust.

Without going into the details of the entire model; here are three elements from the model that build cognitive and emotional trust.

  • Creating a high level of interdependence between team members
  • Assembling the right mix of skills on the team
  • Establishing norms of behavior that are modeled and enforced

To implement each of the above takes engagement and interaction between team members. Interdependence requires learning about each team member. The right mix of skills immediately builds cognitive trust. Establishing team behavioral norms that necessitate a wide range of engagements from social to “business only” has the potential to create trusting relationships.

The bottom line: Connect your team cognitively and emotionally. Reduce isolation and ensure each member of your team is connected and contributing.

As leaders, creating professional and social interaction may be the greatest method to bring trust to your team. Find ways to create meaningful interactions in the remote environment that fit with your team and its culture.

What do you need to do to connect your team cognitively and emotionally?

“My boss is bringing everyone back to the office full time just because that is what he is comfortable with. I have been having an ongoing conversation with him on the benefits of working remotely at least part-time. He is having none of it.”

“He says he cannot trust everyone in the remote environment, we need the face-to-face time to ensure we continue to build camaraderie and sustain our culture, particularly for the new folks. Finally, he says we are not as productive. Which I totally disagreed and pushed back with the data on how well we did during the pandemic.”

Here is what I heard in that exchange by my client describing her boss. He wants everyone back in the office because:

  • He does not trust them
  • He believes culture is best built and maintained face-to-face
  • He believes high productivity is tied to being in-person

We can make all kinds of assumptions about this boss however, I see the bottom line for my client as; she needs to address his primary concerns of trust, culture, and productivity.

What about the team you are leading? Are you ready to allow more remote work or are you bringing everyone back into the office? The above three elements are applicable to every leader. In my opinion, if we as leaders adequately address all three considerations, remote and/or hybrid work is doable. Let’s look at an overview of each.


How do you build trust in the virtual or hybrid environment? My answer, the same way you do in the in-person environment. In a previous video, we talked about four elements a leader needs to build trust. Those are: setting the example, setting and enforcing the standard, building and sustaining morale, and exhibiting moral courage.

What do you think your team wants from you in terms of trust? What do you want from them? Research has found, leaders who want their people in the office to have a mindset of visibility equates to accountability. What does this mode of operation do for retention? Do you want to work for a boss who trusts you only when they see you?


What is the culture in an organization? It is how the team interacts and works together. Whether you are in person or virtual, your organization has a culture. Make it what you want it to be. A collaborative social culture is possible virtually. You have to be deliberate about how you cultivate your culture. Letting the culture evolve without your direction can be a recipe for something you really don’t like.


Working virtually is not new, it has been around for about 20 years, mostly in the tech world. CISCO and Sun Micro System were one of the first to go mainstream with a large percentage of their workforce being virtual. It is certainly new for a lot of us. Remote meetings, less travel, less office space requirements, and less commute time have made us more productive. Does your team have to be in the office 100% of the time to be productive? Does your team want some remote work? Ask them for the productivity standards and solutions. You may be surprised at what your team tells you.

Remote work is here to stay. How are you leveraging it with your team? We’ll continue this exploration into the three areas: trust, culture, and productivity.

How many times have you heard the term “Coaching Culture”? Can you describe it?

I see it as a culture that supports the growth and development of team members and the organization by delivering results. Leaders and subordinates work together to set goals, refine tasks, and mark progress. Less direction and more collaboration.

What should it feel like to be immersed in such a culture?

I would expect to work closely with my leaders and colleagues to develop personal and professional goals aligned with the work. To be assigned projects/tasks to support those goals. Coupled with regular interactions to jointly assess my personal progress and my contribution to the team.

In the analogy of a sports coach, the coaching helps me improve my game, play better, and contribute to the team.

I have seen leaders work to implement a coaching culture with mixed results. The successes consistently have the following three elements:

  • Leadership involvement – initial direction and full participation
  • A consistent framework – a framework for the organization to use
  • Constant follow up – continual reinforcement and assessment of progress

Leadership Involvement

This area cannot be delegated. Leaders demonstrating coaching behaviors as well as being coached send a powerful message. In turn they are rewarded with the culture they desire. Setting the example, participating in the training, and being engaged in coaching shows vulnerability. It also demonstrates the leader’s priority to develop a coaching culture.

Leadership involvement works with teams of any size. If you are a team leader of 10 or if you run an organization of several hundred. Leadership involvement makes a positive difference.

A Consistent Framework

Everyone in the organization needs to be able to articulate how coaching is implemented. The goal is to develop coaching skills in the entire workforce, not to make the entire workforce into professional coaches. Keep it simple, implement a framework that has boundaries and flexibility. This will allow everyone to participate and make progress.

For an introduction to a simple approach take a look at The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier. An excellent resource to start building coaching skills.

The more experience individuals and the organization develop, the more nuanced the coaching will become. But start simple. A consistent framework builds:

  • a shared foundation
  • a shared language
  • shared experiences

Constant Follow Up

Ever been on a sports team where a coach set a standard once and did not follow up? That would never happen. Individual coaching requires constant evaluation and feedback, measured against a standard. In coaching, since many of the standards are set by those tasked to attain them, accountability transitions from oversight to self-accountability. Coaching becomes a collaborative discussion on progress and strategies rather than accountability towards a specific metric and performance. All the players are working for the good of each other and how to contribute to the overall success.

In addition to individual follow up, the overall program requires constant follow up and maintenance. Remember you are building a culture and cultures develop from attitudes and behaviors. Discussion on what is working, not working, and shared challenges can unite teammates.

Coaching culture may seem like a buzz word. When you are immersed in it, you understand and feel the power it can bring to an organization.

Younger generations expect to be coached and developed in their workplace. Gallup analytics shows millennials are more likely than the previous generation to say that development opportunities and ‘quality of manager’ are extremely important in a new job. Young employees want a manager who cares about them as a person and who is actively engaged in their career growth.”

Teams are made up of individuals and today’s workforce is interested in their individual development and progress. What are you doing about it?

Let’s do a quick assessment of your involvement in the career growth of your team members. On a scale of one to ten grade yourself on the following:

  • How well you know the long-term career goals of each team member?
  • How well you know the path that brought each member into their current position?
  • How well are you developing each team member to fulfill their long-term career goals?

What does your score tell you? For most of us, get more involved. A more important question is; what would the impact be on your team if each score was an 8 or above?

For most, it would mean a more effective and engaged team. Maybe even better production and retention.


How easy would it be for you to focus some of your regular one-on-one meetings solely on career progress and professional development? My experience is; focusing on the career development of individual team members is very impactful.

The three areas I address during career discussions:

  • What is the long-term vision for your career?
  • What got you to this point?
  • How do you want your current position to contribute to your long-term vision?

Let’s look at these conversations.

Long-term Career Vision

Begin with the end. Every individual has a vision of where they would like to end up. Supervisor, team leader, VP, Executive VP, Executive Director of a nonprofit, or a business owner. Think about the vision of your career destination. Is it important? If it is for you, it is also important for your team members. Taking time to hear an individual’s vision is very respectful and appreciated. Additionally, it provides unique insight into each individual.

What Got You Here?

Hearing the journey one took to arrive at their current career place is enlightening. It reveals trends, defining moments, and values, which reveal motivations and attitudes. Everyone is continually working to fulfill their values. Think of your story – what does it reveal about you?

Active Development

Do you have anyone actively developing you for your next step in your career journey? Yes- what is the impact on you and your performance? No – what is the impact on you and your performance?

As leaders, we have the ability to assign tasks, positions, and training for each team member. What if you could assign the annual budget and audit process for your team to a member who shared her vision to transfer to finance and be a CFO? Assign program tracking and reporting to an individual focused on being a program manager? These conversations reveal hidden win-win opportunities.

Taking the time to truly know and understand the career journey of each individual is a gift to you, the team member, and the team. You know where they ultimately want to go, the motivations that got them where they are today, and finally how you can positively contribute to their current career chapter.

What if someone did this for you?