How Leaders Destroy Careers

Most people will say that team member development is high on their list when choosing a company to build a career. In action, even if the programs exist, they usually don't meet the expectations of their workforce.

Studies show that 70% of employees lack mastery of the skills to do their job, and a whopping 75% are dissatisfied with the company's learning and development programs.

Many articles offer advice on how to improve the effectiveness of L&D programs, such as this one.

Let's take a moment to consider what should be happening to set our humans up for success.

Three powerful conversations: A summary

This concept is summarized in the article "Three Powerful Conversations Managers Must Have To Develop Their People" and linked in the resources session at the end of this article.

  1. Be their Barbara Walters. Take an hour to get to know your employees — deeply. Begin with the phrase: Tell me about your life, starting with kindergarten.

  2. Spot their lighthouse and bring it into focus. The most critical step is articulating a clear vision for a team member’s future. Ask your team member about their dreams.

  3. Create a career action plan. Armed with a shared and textured understanding of your employees’ key motivators and a clear articulation of their envisioned future, you’re ready for the next step: crafting a detailed action plan.

These things may sound obvious, but I challenge you: if you were doing these three things consistently, how did you get that gut-wrenching blow?

Have you ever had someone quit on you, and you secretly felt relieved because you had no idea how to help them?

How about knowing you should allow a toxic person to move on but feel stuck?

Two situations you must address

All heart, lousy fit

You make a significant investment, and so do they. Along the way, you realize they have all the wrong skills for the job they want, and it feels like a punch in the gut.

Telling them seems cruel. Not telling them feels cruel.

It's a miserable position. Proven leaders always act in the interest of those they serve.

You are at a crossroads.

There are two competencies you can now work on to address those passionately pursuing the wrong role.

  • Managerial courage. Knowing their skills are not right isn't enough. Sometimes the truth hurts, and that's no excuse. Leaders don't hide when their tummy feels weird. Have the conversation.

  • Organizational agility. Set a cadence to build your network with intent. Connect with cross-functional partners, leaders in other divisions, and other companies. Most organizations are positionally sensitive, and those in your charge don't have the access you do. It's your responsibility to network and share.

Big potential, no heart

These are the noisy ones. They do their job well and are reliable. They are influential on the team - often more than you are.

Because they show so much potential and support your business in so many ways, you don't address the negative talk.

Every time you hear that changes are coming, you have played a movie in your mind that makes your palms sweat.

The changes are announced, and your phone immediately rings. You know you are in trouble when you avoid the conversation by sending it to voicemail.

There are two competencies you can work on right now to lead this teammate in this situation.

  • Managing Conflict. Few enjoy conflict, and the longer you let it go on, the more difficult it will be to work through. If you hear a conversation and think, "whew, I'm glad my boss didn't hear that," you are in a position of required action as a leader. Act.

  • Building a Strong Culture. If you don't establish a standard of values, you aren't leading from a strong foundation. Thinking you can have a strong culture while someone is openly resistant to your decision is flawed. Establish standards and stick to them - especially you.

Your development needs to be a top priority.

When there is work to do before development work is practical, the leader is responsible for addressing the roadblock and defining a path. Skipping that step is often catastrophic for everyone involved.

Have you ever had a time when you intended to do something developmental for yourself, but it somehow ended up at the bottom of the list?

Making time for your development needs to be intentional and prioritized.

Try this: Open your calendar and block off the time, then stick to it like it is a critical presentation with executives (unless you would ditch that - pick something you wouldn't!).

Prove your development is essential.