Where Are You Leading?
This is my site Written by Alora on June 30, 2009 – 4:36 pm

follow-the-leaderI’ve had an interesting few weeks. My husband and I have been dealing with a lot of things at home, hence my absence from blogging for much of the past month, and I have started a new project with the New Media (a.k.a. “web”) team at KXAN-TV here in Austin.

Between getting settled into the new project and speaking to old friends at former companies (some of whom are now unemployed, while others only wished they were), I’ve been thinking about a number of things that seem to have dovetailed together in a way I wasn’t expecting.

First and foremost is career management. Long a favorite topic of mine, what I’ve been thinking of recently is how sadly common it is for a boss to be totally useless when it comes to helping their employees with career management plans. More than a few of them don’t think it’s part of their responsibility (which I find inexcusably lazy), but even more of them seem to simply not think of it.

This got me thinking of the series I wrote at Christmas, “A Christmas Card to My Bosses: Thanks to Three Very Wise Men.” While I wrote blog posts on the great lessons I learned from each John, Robert and Dave, the thing that I didn’t state explicitly (but which was implicit) was that each of them cared about and was focused on making sure the people on their staff were getting the career development support, encouragement and pushing that they needed. They were all acutely aware of the role they played in developing their people; they took that responsibility seriously and they executed against that.

I see so many talented people who do not have that. And when they finally have someone actually demonstrate some interest and some focus on helping them define and reach their career objectives, they are often so stunned they can hardly believe it.

Why is it so hard? Most people who have been successful enough to be the boss have accomplished that because they know how to manage their own career, so why is it so hard for them to help give guidance and advice to someone else on how to do the same? It shouldn’t be — and I don’t buy that it usually is. I think the reason most people don’t do it is because they don’t make time to do it.

An important thing to keep in mind: statistically speaking, most people do not leave their job, they leave their boss. So are you doing what you need to do to keep your employees engaged and supported so that they stick around? If not, why not?

So that’s my challenge to bosses everywhere: have you worked with each of your direct reports to make sure you understand their career goals (at least as much as they do)? Have you worked on a plan for them that will help them make progress towards those goals? Are you checking in with them regularly to make sure that they are staying focused on at least some of the accomplishments they need in order to stay on track?

Part of being a leader is helping make sure the people you are leading are getting where they need to go. If you aren’t doing that, then where are you leading them?