Today’s managers must balance their daily work with multiple “ands,” such as delivering quarterly goals. and strategic thinking. Because of these many demands, managers tend to deprioritize their own career development. It doesn’t have to be that way. The more managers take control of their development, the better they can avoid common career mistakes that hinder their growth. And the more their team members see the positive impact of investing in their career development, the more likely they will do the same.
Being a successful manager today is a difficult task that requires dealing with many “ands”: Supporting team members and influencing senior stakeholders; progress day job and solving unexpected problems; providing quarterly objectives and strategic thinking. Among the “and overload,” it’s no surprise that managers tend to be the least likely people in an organization to prioritize their own career development.
Through our global work on “squiggly” and nonlinear careers, we support thousands of managers every year who share a sense of frustration that their career development is stalling but struggling to find time to invest in their own learning. We’ve observed three common career development mistakes managers make and found some tried and tested solutions to help them balance the demands of day-to-day investing with their own investment. -progress.
1. The Say-Do Development Gap
Our clients often tell us that they find coaching and supporting the career development of their team members a motivating and enjoyable part of their management role – but they underestimate the importance of -model this behavior for themselves.
When teams don’t see their manager investing in their own development, it creates a “say-do” development gap, which has negative consequences for managers and their teams: Team members lose confidence that taking time off from their career development is the right thing to do and may question whether their manager really values continuous learning. At the same time, managers lose important opportunities to develop skills and capabilities to improve their performance and support their ambitions for the future.
What to do differently: Share learning goals
A simple and effective way for managers to avoid the say-do development gap is to share their learning goals openly with their teams. Sharing development priorities has many benefits. First, it prompts managers to identify what improvement they want to focus on, and sharing their goals increases accountability. Second, the involvement of team members means that managers surround themselves with more people to support their development and removes the idea that learning from others is linked to levels and hierarchies. Finally, when team members see their managers setting and sticking to development goals, it motivates them to do the same.
For example, a manager who shares a learning goal to increase their internal profile may benefit from a team member seeing an opportunity for them to speak up at an event. A manager looking to improve their ability to use data to drive decisions can be supported by feedback from their team members on what they are currently doing well and what can be improved.
When approached this way, development doesn’t have to be just another thing to add to a manager’s to-do list; it becomes part of their daily work and is accelerated by the people who work for them.
2. The Bubble Barrier
With so many demands on their work days, it’s understandable that managers rarely spend time developing outside of their organization. The challenge of finding time and opportunity to learn in different places and with new people often feels insurmountable and falls into the category of “must do” rather than “do.”
Relying on internal-only development results in managers developing a narrow worldview and limiting their learning. And the movement in the bubble of internal knowledge and networks means that managers are reinforcing who and what they already know rather than cultivating their curiosity. Managers need to learn beyond the internal bubble so that it does not become a barrier to their growth.
What to do differently: Knowledge transfer sessions
An efficient way to bring externality is to approach peers in a non-competing organization to co-host a team development session, where both teams share their expertise in each other. For example, a team with agile skills can exchange knowledge with a team with strong communication capabilities. Or an established team in a large organization can spend time with a team from a small startup, exchanging insights on innovation in different operating contexts.
These knowledge exchange sessions allow everyone to spend time in a different working world, make new connections, and learn together (which also supports overcoming the know-do gap). The format of a swap session can range from a virtual lunch hour to a full day in a room. Holding knowledge-swaps gives managers – and their teams – regular opportunities to learn from people outside the organization in a way that is part of their existing work rhythm, rather than a something to further insist on.
3. The Time Trap
We often hear managers say: “I don’t have time to invest in my development. I’ll get to it when everyone calms down, or when this project is finished, or when I’ve recruited this person, etc. ” This way of thinking means that many managers are stuck in a time trap, which will hold back their career for a long time.
These time traps are not the result of managers making excuses – they reflect the reality of the challenges they face. The mistake is to hope that one day we will have more time and less things to do. If managers are looking for the perfect opportunity to focus their development, they are likely to be left waiting and stagnant in their career.
What to do differently: Instances of micro-learning by the manager
Many people still attribute development to formal learning methods such as taking courses. But what managers need are small, easy ways to make improvement part of their daily lives. Practicing micro-learning moments is a memorable and simple way for managers to start the habit of continuous improvement. Effective moments of micro-learning usually take less than 10 minutes, and they are small but significant in their impact, because managers benefit from a compound effect of continuous learning over time. Here are some examples:
Quick feedback: Ask your team members to answer the same quick feedback question: What are three words you would use to describe me at my best? This simple question gives managers immediate insight into whether their intent matches their impact.
One minute weekly review: End your week by taking a minute to write down the answers to these two self-discovery questions: What gave me the most energy this week? What could have been better this week?
Fast accelerator: Choose a skill you want to strengthen and identify an action related to regularity (how can you use that strength better?), range (where else can you use the strength you don’t have now? ), or reach (who can you share that energy with?).
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The more managers can control their development, the better they can avoid career mistakes that hinder their growth. And the more their team members see the positive impact of investing in their career development, the more likely they will do the same. Helping managers help everyone succeed in their squiggly careers.