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Open the Doors and Watch'em Grow
by Caela Farren, Ph.D., MasteryWorks, Inc.



"...opening opportunities for talented people is one of the best ways to engage and retain your best people."Introduction
Did you know one of the major roles of a manager is opening doors to career opportunities? Opened doors unlock robust options for your team, project, business unit and your organization. Change, innovation, and ideas are the opportunities that challenge and engage people. Whether a person stays with you or moves elsewhere in the organization, opening opportunities for talented people is one of the best ways to engage and retain your best people. And if they don’t grow, they are sure to go.

Show Opportunities
The best managers know their most talented people want to be challenged. Talented people want to keep developing relevant skills. They tire easily when they work on something that fails to intrigue or challenge them, but never seem to tire of learning. They are sponges who soak up knowledge, ask questions and never seem to be satisfied with the status quo.

They want to know the “why?” when something doesn’t make sense to them. They ask “why not” when they see a better solution. They are the kind of people who you want to retain. They are the leaders of the future. They are the innovators and thinkers who make recommendations. When you say you want feedback, they give it to you - like it or not. And much of the time, they see another road to travel, a better way or a new option to save time and build a stronger bottom line.

Fear of Leaving
Having a known entity who has the required skills and knowledge and whose values are aligned with the organization is a winning combination. The best managers develop these people and then actively seek situations that will allow them to continue developing their skills. Think systems, mission of your organization. If you are seen as a manager who develops his/her people and then helps them find new and stretching opportunities, you will have many others who want to work with you. The best coaches/managers are magnets for talent. Isn’t it better that someone with great talent and potential stays with your organization than going to your competitor? The truth is – letting them go to another part of the organization is the best strategy for keeping talented people for the long term.

Never fear that your best and brightest may choose another road. Opening doors and walking them into the sunshine of change and innovation will reflect positively on you. There’s always a risk they will leave your team or your organization, but the risk is far greater if you lock them into boring work that doesn’t challenge their abilities and won’t allow them to grow. Beside, you cannot stop people from leaving; sometimes it’s best for them and for the organization. Allow them to leave on a positive note and keep the doors open in case they want to come back. Help them find another place – if that’s their choice. More often than not, they’ll return your help and send you talented people. Letting go is part of growing people – it’s a natural process. You’ll find someone to take their place and add new and important value. Don’t let fear of leaving stop you from giving your best reports opportunities.

How Best to Open Those Doors
Opening doors means opening up career conversations to explore options and to create opportunities. These conversations are not to be held at superficial year-end reviews nor are they to be scheduled in a single protracted morning session. There may be a half dozen ten minute unscheduled informal meetings at the dining room, the water cooler or in a corridor. Focus the conversation to:

  • Find out their deepest aspirations and look for opportunities to help connect them either inside or outside your immediate organization;
  • Study their uniqueness. What are the 3-4 sentences that characterize each person’s uniqueness? Figure that out. Share that with them. Then be on the lookout for either enriching their current job to use that uniqueness or look for options within the organization for them.
  • Recognize the needs of the organization and discuss with each of your people how they are uniquely ready to help meet those needs. Again, that can be in your unit or another part of the organization.
  • Speak to others in the organization who would be interested in having that kind of talent. If there’s not a job yet, help create one.
Encourage People to Explore
Dr. Robert Sutton in his seminal book, “Good Boss, Bad Boss How to be The Best and Learn from the Worst,” 2010, published by Hatchette, confirmed that whatever the year, or wherever the location, or whatever the job title, nearly 75% of all employees reported their supervisors were the most stressful part of their jobs. Opening doors means being a better manager. Being a good boss isn’t rocket science. Turn the handle, open the door and let the possibilities in.

Opening doors means helping your reports broaden their networks. Engage in career conversations and find out what’s working well and what’s not. Recognize your reports’ accomplishments, big and small; take the time and invest in relationships, whether it’s at lunch, a morning coffee, or a monthly dinner meeting of the team. Fit each person’s strengths and abilities to his or her work. An employee who has the opportunity to use her abilities is an engaged employee. Most of all, encourage your people to explore. Become active in studying trends and needs of your organization and brainstorm how those organizational needs can be met.

Explore Long-Term Strategies
Explore long-term strategies with your team. Projects and jobs come from exploratory conversations. Oftentimes, the people closest to the work see the need for a new kind of job or project. Solicit their ideas. Look at the pros and cons of their recommendations. Become an incubator for problem-solving and job creation. When you open doors in this way, your people will want to stay in your organization – whether directly under your wing or in another area of the organization.

New ideas, projects, and jobs generate lots of enthusiasm and passion, especially if they come from the ranks. Be a manager who always has time for exploratory conversations. Remember that a manager, who opens doors to new opportunities, is a magnet that attracts the best and the brightest.

Summary
One of the major roles of a manager is opening doors for career opportunities. The best managers develop their people and then actively seek situations that will allow their talented people to continue developing their skills. Best managers broaden networks; engage in career conversations; recognize accomplishments; invest in relationships; but most of all, the best managers encourage their people to explore. Become active in studying trends and needs of your organization. If you become a manager who develops his/her people and then helps them find new and stretching opportunities, you will have many who want to work with you.



About the Author
Caela Farren, Ph. D.
, is Founder and President of MasteryWorks, Inc., - a leading Career Development consulting organization offering innovative solutions to large and mid-size companies, including Bayer, Baylor Health Care, Brown Forman, CapitalOne, Northrop Grumman, Reebok, Sprint, Sandia National Labs and Sodexo. MasteryWorks, Inc. provides enterprise web portals, training, consulting, e-Learning, and an assessment framework for employees and managers. For more than thirty-five years, Dr. Farren has been a passionate leader around complex issues redefining the workplace. She envisioned the current workplace climate fifteen years ago, when she published a cornerstone compendium on career development, “Who’s Running Your Career: Creating Stable Work in Unstable Times” (Bard Press, 1997). Through MasteryWorks, Inc., she oversees solutions that create the foundation for impact-filled “career conversations” - centered on increased contribution, performance, and fit. She is a leading authority of strategic approaches which consistently deliver employee engagement and retention goals for her clients.

For more information, contact Tom Karl, Vice President, or call us at (703) 256-5712.

MasteryWorks, Inc.
2230 George C Marshall Drive, Suite 122 Falls Church, Virginia 22043 USA 800-229-5712 www.masteryworks.com