How many of your leaders are career blockers?

Managers don't have to be stylistically aligned to staff to provide development - they just need to provide what employees want, says Mark Murphy:

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Jan 19, 2024

I’m almost certain your organization has – within its walls, or working remotely – some exceptionally good leaders; leaders for whom employee growth is a top priority.

But if your company is like most companies, you’ve also probably got at least a few career blockers – that is managers who actually neglect or even disrupt their employees’ development.

Finding out who the career blockers are

You may already know which of your company’s managers fit this description. But if you don’t, an employee engagement survey is the fastest way to pinpoint problem areas.

Start by asking a survey question recommended in a recent Leadership IQ report: “My leader takes an active role in helping me to grow and develop my full potential.”

If you want to discover which of your managers are actively growing their people, there’s no more expeditious approach than asking directly.

This question directly addresses the role of leadership in fostering employee development.

Of course, leaders who are actively involved in their employees’ growth not only boost engagement but also contribute significantly to their team’s overall skill enhancement and career progression. This, in turn, positively affects the organization’s productivity and innovation.

The question also sheds light on the organizational culture.

A leader’s commitment to employee development is a reflection of the company’s values and priorities.

When employees feel that their growth is a key concern for their leaders, it creates a sense of belonging and loyalty to the company.

But when it’s clear that managers care little or nothing for employees’ career growth, it’s unlikely that the company can expect much loyalty in return.

Look at the scores

When you look at the scores for this question however, it is important to remember one vital fact.

Scores can (and often will), vary wildly from department to department.

It’s common to see scores vary as much as 60-70% from one manager to another.

Your overall organizational average doesn’t mean much for a question like this either.

The power of the question comes from its variability and the extent to which it pinpoints specific managers acting like career blockers.

Now aim to transform these people

The goal isn’t to punish poor-performing managers; rather, your goal is to transform career blockers into career builders.

Whether that’s through coaching, training, mentoring, or accountability, you want to triage the managers most in need of help and get them turned around quickly.

It should be noted that the issue of growing (or neglecting) employees’ growth is much deeper than whether managers and employees are best buddies.

Plenty of employees feel a bit out-of-sync with their boss. We know from a leadership styles test that around two-thirds of employees would prefer that their boss have a different style than the one they actually have.

Yet it’s still possible to have a fulfilling and advancing career working for a boss who’s stylistically less-than-ideal.

As long as the manager gives valuable feedback, provides stretch assignments, delivers coaching and training, and is generally invested in the employee’s success, stylistic mismatches will be of secondary importance.

As you might imagine, this issue represents a serious test of a company’s commitment to employee growth.

Every organization says that people are their most important asset, but what will you do when you discover a few managers who blatantly disregard that?

Will they be allowed to continue neglecting employees’ career development?

Will they be required to improve?

Finding and fixing career blockers isn’t for the faint of heart.

However, for organizations with sufficient courage, the potential gains are significant.

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