How can I manage my employees and still have time for my day job?

I work for a family business and have 11 people that I manage. I have a good team of people and we all work well together. My bosses are always worried that we will lose our people to larger companies who can provide better career opportunities. We don’t have the same budgets that the larger companies have.

I have been instructed to spend time with each of my team members to talk about their careers, provide career guidance and get a sense of what their development needs are. I agree that this is a good idea but I’m not sure how to do this effectively as well as doing my day job. I would appreciate some tips on how to do this.

It’s great that you are willing and want to support your team members to have a fulfilling career with your company. Remember to put yourself in the picture too so that you can also benefit from the process. Taking time to assess and reflect on your career is important for the insights this gives and what you create from these insights.

A point to remember is that while you are there to support and where possible guide your team, their career is their responsibility and whatever approach you take ensure that it directs the individual to taking ownership and responsibility for their own career.

I appreciate that this is an extra duty for you and therefore the first thing to look at is your diary and commitments. What are you currently doing that you can ask someone else to help with to free up some of your time? Who in your team would benefit from the experience?

There are many approaches that you can take; I have outlined one below that you may find useful.

Step one: Look at what is available

Prior to setting up any discussions it would be worthwhile to look at what the career opportunities are within the business. What’s available to your team members? What skills and capabilities are required to fulfil these roles? Work with your bosses to create some profiles of these roles and what skills and capabilities (technical, leadership, etc) are required to successfully be able to fulfil them, ensure that you include roles that are currently filled (your role, your boss’s roles).

Step two: Tell your team

Talk to your team about this initiative. Talk about what’s important about it and why the executive team want to invest time in having everyone reflect and assess their careers. How you set this up will be important. Ensure that your bosses are in agreement and aligned with the message you give. Ask the team to take some time to think about their careers, what is going well, what they are doing well (their strengths ) and what skills and capabilities do they feel they would benefit from developing. Give them a date for a careers workshop where you will discuss this. If you hold performance reviews ask them to look/reflect over their last performance appraisal and to get a sense of where they are at.

Hold a careers workshop

Hold a careers workshop with your team, this will get you all in a room together for two to three hours and take less time than having the initial conversation 11 times. Ask your bosses to be involved in this even if it’s just to do an introduction so that your team knows that they are on board and supporting the process.

A guide for the workshop

Introduction: Why this is important to the company; what the outcomes are; introduce the concept that while you are there to support them ultimately they are responsible for their careers and invite them to be proactive in seeking out opportunities and career conversations with you.

Get to know who is in the room: While I appreciate that you know your team members, look at each person with fresh eyes. Ask them to talk about what motivates them, what do they enjoy? You may ask each person to talk about a time when they felt great about something they did. What was it about this experience that made them feel great? Look for what motivates the person and what values are underneath the story. Point them towards their strengths. If they are struggling to talk about their strengths, get each person in the team to share a strength that they see in each other. The reason for doing this is that focusing on our strengths builds confidence. And confidence leads to broadening our horizons, trying for that role that you didn’t feel you could do or studying so that you can up skill to be able to move into another role.

Assess current role: Ask your team to assess how well they are performing in their current role. What areas are they excelling in and what areas do they need to spend some time developing more strength and capability in. (Be sure that you understand what training/budget is available for your team members if they require any training, mentoring or coaching). Are there any projects that team members can move onto to help them to develop their skills?

Goals: Get your team to spend time clarifying their professional goals. How do these match with what’s available in the business? Give them a template/process to do this.

Close: Close the session by asking each person what they gained from the workshop; talk about what happens next. Set up one-on-one career conversations with each of your team members to review/discuss the workshop and to talk about developing a personal career plan for them. Ask them to come to the session prepared and to drive the conversation about their career. Do you have a HR person who can assist you with this? If you do, ask them to help with templates and role profiles.

One-on-one sessions: Assist your team member to develop a career plan. Look at where they are exceeding in their roles, talk about their strengths and how they can continue to utilise their strengths. If possible match them with a mentor in the business or outside the business to increase skills and confidence. Look at any training that they may benefit from and how can they integrate this training back into the business (otherwise it’s a waste of time). Assess what skills and capabilities they would benefit from continuing to develop.

Be mindful that this process could result in someone leaving the business and discuss this with your bosses. And if that’s the case, it’s better for the business (and your employees) to be somewhere where they want to be. However, the people who have chosen to work for a family run business have their reasons for doing so. If you come from a place of genuinely wanting them to have a fulfilling career within the company and support them to do this you will have a higher chance of retaining your team. Large corporate life isn’t everyone’s choice, trust that your people are working with you because they choose to do so.

Pollyanna Lenkic is the founder of Perspectives Coaching, an Australian based coaching and training company. In 1990 she co-founded a specialist IT recruitment consultancy in London, which grew to employ 18 people and turnover £11 million ($27 million). In this blog Pollyanna answers questions from our readers on issues they are experiencing leading or being part of a team.  She offers insights on teams and team dynamics. For support and information on team days run by Perspectives Coaching see here. Her previous Blog for SmartCompany, 2nd Time Around was about the mistakes she made and the lessons she learned building a business the first time round and how to do it better second time round.

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