If you have ever wanted to grow or develop professionally and found disappointment in the support your organization provided you, this article is for you. While many employees would love to blame their supervisor or manager, or perhaps even their company for the lack of growth and development provided, there is a practical reality in recognizing your own responsibility in the process.
Did you know that most organizations expect the employee to take ownership and accountability for their career development? It is true, while the company may establish practices and programs for training and development or promotional opportunity, it is the employee who must take advantage of these programs and own their actions. Sounds easier said than done, and it is often a challenge to accomplish your goals if the organization hasn’t adopted or implemented effective organizational development practices. At the end of the day organizations train their supervisors to engage the workforce through establishing goals and expectations. Supervisors are expected to provide employees the tools, resources, and support to achieve success. However, if there is a lack of communication, trust, or ownership by the employee, the process may falter and you will stagnate, not to mention a lack of experience by the supervisor. There are steps you can take to position yourself for increased success in achieving professional development.
Take the goal setting and performance review process seriously. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, you only have control over your own career and can’t allow yourself to be distracted by others. When meeting with your supervisor, request the opportunity to modify or add additional goals that are directly related to the achievement of your professional development. This should include more than academic pursuits such as a degree or course work. Develop goals that involve projects at the organization that enable you to not only gain additional experience and competencies, but add value to the business. Be creative and innovative and solicit the input of your supervisor in identifying activities you can become involved in to position yourself for advancement in the business or in your industry.
An effective strategy to accomplish the goal setting process is to identify several higher-level positions in the company and document the essential functions as well as the minimum requirements of the role. Partner with your supervisor to determine what the current skill and experience gaps are and set goals that will mitigate those gaps. For example, if the position you are targeting next requires cross-functional experience in operations, and thus far you only work in a vertical area of the business limited to one function or department, establish a goal to participate in the next cross function project as a team member or subject matter expert.
A critical component of this process as noted earlier is to establish trust and effective communication with your supervisor. Here is where some of the empowerment comes into play. You want to establish mutual respect, mutual goals, and honest communication. This requires you to be vulnerable at times sharing your weaknesses and asking for help in achieving your goals. At the same time, ask your supervisor if they are also open to feedback and constructive criticism. When they say yes, which most will, do not provide any feedback at that time. Instead, at a future meeting remind the supervisor of their agreement to receive feedback and provide a point or two that you feel would help them be a better supervisor. In turn, ask them to continuously provide you feedback and guidance so that you too, can learn and grow professionally. This type of exchange will build trust, while at the same time establish the expectations you have for the supervisor placing you in a position of greater influence for your professional development.
At regular intervals you want to test your relationship with your supervisor by asking if they are committed to your success as much as you are committed to theirs. If you demonstrate a level of performance and communication that supports the success of the supervisor, you will be surprised at the level of reciprocation you can elicit just by asking for it.
Finally, if you embark on this process of self-empowerment to achieve your goals, recognize that not all feedback will be easy to take requiring you to remove your emotions from the process. Use each and every one-on-one meeting or performance discussion as an opportunity to reaffirm your commitment to success while also setting your expectations for your supervisor to help you achieve your mutually agreed upon goals.
Author: Warren Cook