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Be Your Own Champion

Having worked in HR for as long as I have, I have had a lot of discussions and coaching sessions with employees as it pertains to their professional development.  Typically, these types of conversations crop up around performance review time and usually it is AFTER they have received their performance review.  For some reason, many employees go into these meetings with their managers thinking that their manager has identified some grandiose plan for them in terms of their growth and development.  The harsh reality, whether right or wrong, for many of today’s time and resource strapped managers, is that they are focused on one thing – making sure you are doing your current job effectively.  It you are doing your job well than your manager is happy.  If you show up day in and day out, don’t make a fuss and do good work – than your manager is happy.  They have no plans to grow and develop you into another role.

ChampionNow, I realize I am making some major generalizations here; but in many of today’s workplaces that is the harsh reality.  Most companies reward their managers for the quality/quantity of goods/services their department produces.  In other words, is the manager “making their numbers?”  Is revenue where it is supposed to be?  If so, carry on.  The company is happy therefore the manager is ‘rewarded’ for this.  The message that is sent is simple – we want you focused on the short term cash.  So the manager happily goes about their work and their focus with you, the employee, is easy – keep doing what you are doing.

Now, we all know that many employees have hopes and dreams of growing and developing, hence the reason I have had hundreds of these conversations in my career with staff.  My advice is always the same – you (the employee) need to own your growth and development.  Don’t assume your manager has some great master plan in play for you.  You need to be your own (career) champion.  Develop a plan for the type of project, technology or role you want to be involved with or move into.  Based on your research and knowledge of your company and its industry, identify the type of training and development that you need in order to move upwards or outwards in your role.  Most importantly, identify WHY you should have this opportunity and what you need from your manager to make it happen…then ASK.

A lot of employees are blown away when they get this advice.  Not because it is a major revelation, but they thought that was their manager’s job.  I am pretty blunt with my response.  I tell staff, it is your manager’s job to make sure you have the knowledge, skills and abilities to do your current job.  It is your job to ask for and obtain the knowledge, skills, abilities and opportunity to do the job/role that you want next. Yes, the manager has a role to play in that they need to remove obstacles, provide the opportunity and perhaps secure budget approvals where needed, but the employee has to take ownership and drive this to happen.

Once I can get an employee to “see the light” in terms of this reverse pyramid approach, (i.e. the employee is at the top…er, the bottom) things tend to change for them.  They realize that they need to take ownership of their career and that there isn’t someone in the workplace designated or focused on doing that for them.  My goal is to put them in the driver’s seat of their career management and help them navigate this road.  In other words, put them in charge and be their own champion.  As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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