To get everything done in the next year, you’re going to need your people to perform at a high level. You also know that the people who report to you have some developmental needs (fancy HR speak for they’re not as good as you need them to be). For you to accomplish everything you (and your bosses) want, you’re going to have to push them to get better.
Too bad your best shot at getting them to be better means telling them they’re not as good as they think they are… a real motivation killer. And a fun conversation to boot! That is unless you apply this advice:
“A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”
– a random manager named Mary Poppins
“Pour some sugar on me
Ooh, in the name of love
Pour some sugar on me
C’mon, fire me up
Pour your sugar on me
Oh, I can’t get enough
I’m hot, sticky sweet
From my head to my feet, yeah…”
What do the quotes from this group of management consultants have in common?
They tell you everything you need to know about talking to employees about developmental gaps.
Don’t believe me?
Poppins needed some kids to do some stuff they didn’t want to do, so she tricked them into thinking it was fun. Well played, Poppins. Def Leppard? They understood the importance of sugar, as well.
Here’s what we know:
- Goal setting season is here, which means you’ve got a prime opportunity to talk about the performance you need in the next year.
- The people you manage are good but need some polishing.
- Talking about developmental gaps is hard (for you, the bringer of that bad news, and the employee who has to hear they’re not as good as they think they are.)
Given those realities, this year, consider setting developmental goals. They’re your new best friend when it comes to being viewed as a career agent to those who work for you because they give you an easier/more comfortable way to push them to get better.
The only catch is that you have to be willing to have an honest conversation about what stands in their way. Here’s how the conversation goes:
- You identify the areas you need your direct report to improve. It’ll probably be a behavior that’s limiting their effectiveness or a lack of experience/technical acumen in a certain area.
- You tell them why working on the area in question is good for their career (this is the spoonful of sugar Ms. Poppins was breaking down). Explain why getting better in specific areas will set them up for professional success.
- You brainstorm with the employee in question on things they can do in the next year to fill the developmental gap until you decide a short list of things they’ll do to get better.
BOOM. You’ve not only acted as a career agent, you’ve pushed them to be better AND you and the employee have a plan to make it happen—which is good for you, the company, and for them.