To Get Ahead, Sit Down and Have a Chat

Pat Roberts

Recently I was asked for executive coaching by a young man who had received a big promotion in a blue-chip company. He was feeling unsure about how to show up effectively in his new role and believed an executive coach would help him.

I enquired about the conversations he had held with his manager and his manager’s manager around their expectations of him and discovered that no such conversations had taken place. He’d just been promoted and given a new role profile.

I asked him to set up conversations for himself and me with his two immediate superiors. In these meetings, I worked through a structured set of questions looking at all the perceptions and expectations of my client’s way of being in the business with each manager.

At the end of these two conversations, the young man had clarity on how to operate, what the expectations of him were, how he would be evaluated and how he could do additional things that would impress his managers and advance his career. He actually didn’t need a coach, just a couple of clear, structured conversations.

This lack of clear communication and contracting has reached critical levels in business. People appointed to positions feel they should know what to do, so don’t ask. Their managers are so busy that they don’t think through how to make new appointees as effective as possible.

A senior human resources practitioner recently left her employer, where she was highly regarded to take up a group head of human resources position in another organisation. When she resigned, she discovered she had been identified as a potential group head of human resources by her employer, but no one had taken the time to have a career path conversation with her — and now it was too late.

This is just one example of many such losses that businesses in SA suffer because of a lack of honest, open communication.

As companies try to hold on, particularly to the black talent they so desperately need to retain, the cost of not having these conversations increases exponentially.

Losing a talented member of staff due to lack of communication, transparency and vision comes at a high price, but no one seems to be taking the blame for this loss.

Talent-retention should play a more prominent role in executive assessment. The excuse of people moving for more money doesn’t hold true unless there have been clear and open career path conversations.

When a new employee joins an organisation, very often they receive a job description and possibly a formal induction programme.

What would make a difference to their potential for success would be to sit with their manager, interrogate the role profile as to delivery, behaviour, expectations, time frames and measurement, and then contract monthly update discussions about delivery against those expectations. This should happen no matter how senior the person is.

The new member of staff should also be having one-on-one conversations with each of the people they will be working with to understand their expectations and measurement of performance against those expectations. These can be simple conversations such as, “What do you expect of me in my role and how will you measure that?”; “You can rely on me for the following…”; “One way in which you could really impress me is…”

Performance feedback in general is problematic. Coaches working with teams are often told lapses of performance are stored up by the manager and all vomited out at the biannual performance assessment. This is not only extremely demotivating and shows very poor leadership, but the cost to the organisation of not dealing with the area of poor performance immediately, so that performance improves, is never taken into account.

Open and honest performance conversations should take place continuously with all direct reports so that there is always clarity on where performance is good and where it could improve.

This area of leadership is generally disregarded and this puts an onus on business leaders to ensure that all managers are thoroughly equipped to hold effective performance conversations and that these conversations are part of business as usual and not a biannual ordeal.

This means continuously acknowledging great work, while adjusting where work has not been up to the required standard.

If these conversations are part of normal operations, they will not be dreaded, nor will they be very time-consuming. This process of continuous performance check-in and clarity on how to improve is a powerful way to retain talent, as well as enable employees to achieve their full potential.

Delegation is another type of conversation often not happening as effectively as it should be. Managers should make a point of including people in the delegation process and empowering them to decide which tasks should be delegated to them and when.

The amount of responsibility given should be matched with the amount of authority that the member of staff has.

Absolute clarity on the outcome — what the result will look like from every aspect; numbers, service levels, time frames and so on — is crucial.

Clearly identifying any difficulties and boundaries including the lines of authority, responsibility and accountability, will ensure smooth and efficient implementation.

Clarity on what type of reporting is required about progress with the task and how often this should happen is another important area of contracting.

Managers should provide enough support and be available to answer questions.

Continuing communication and monitoring, as well as providing the correct resources and funding, will contribute to the success.

A common pitfall is “upward delegation”.

Far too often, managers take back tasks that are not being well done just because they can do the job faster and better.

This action means the manager has less time to do their own work and the member of staff doesn’t learn from their poor performance.

Delegating effectively means finding the balance between giving enough space for people to use their abilities to best effect, while still monitoring and supporting closely enough to ensure that the job is done well.

Managers who fail at delegation will be held back in their careers as they will stay bogged down in implementation rather than rising to operate at more strategic levels.

Read Original Article HERE