As a manager, you have direct control over the well-being and happiness of your team. Sometimes that means rewarding your best people. Other times it’s fixing problems. Or, it can be protecting your team from distraction, annoyance, or corporate BS.
While dealing with all of that day to day, week to week, and month to month, there’s another investment you should be making that pays massive dividends to both you and your team members: Their goals.
Regardless of their age or role, everyone has personal goals and aspirations. These goals can take a number of forms, but just like 1 on 1s, they should be centered around the team member. Even small investments by you, and simply the recognition of these goals, can have a major impact on your team member’s morale and outlook.
Here’s two stories about personal goals that get to the heart of this opportunity for you as a manager.
Story #1: A new career direction for a young star.
Before Lighthouse, I managed an ambitious, very talented young person we’ll call Amanda. Amanda came up to speed on new skills quickly, had a great attention to detail, and always shared great ideas. Amanda was the ideal team member, who was doing great work for us in business development, building crucial relationships and closing key deals.
Then one day, when I asked about her personal goals, she told me how she wanted to become a product manager.
Now, we really needed her to do business development; it secured crucial revenue for us. And unfortunately, there was little in Amanda’s background that lent itself to product management, and we didn’t really have a lot of product work.
But I didn’t let that stop us from working together to achieve her goal.
The Turning Point.
We sat down and talked about her goal more. She understood what we needed her to do, and she knew she had a lot to learn, so she was willing to be patient on becoming a product manager.
We worked together to come up with a plan to learn the skills she needed through a series of mentor conversations, books to read, and sharing experiences I had as a product manager.
The total investment on my part was about 1 hour a month and less than $50 on books for her.
The Result? Passion and excitement for all her work.
Yes. That’s right. Not only did Amanda learn valuable skills so that she is now an associate product manager today, but as important for me, she did great work in business development for us.
Manager ROI is heavily in your favor.
When I invested in Amanda and what she wanted, she returned the favor by working hard on the work she knew I and the business needed. This payoff was a force multiplier: Her efforts were for all the hours in her job, versus my small, monthly investment.
You can do the same. Don’t let personal goals be an unfulfilled, forgotten conversation in annual reviews.
A friend of mine, we’ll call Craig, was the VP of Engineering at a growing startup. In his late 20s, many of the engineers on the team were older than Craig, but he was named VP because of his strong people skills, product vision, and desire for the role.
While Craig started out strong, having 1 on 1s with all the engineers and keeping the team shipping regularly, he shied away from personal goals conversations.
For younger team members, still early in their careers, Craig talked regularly about their growth and helped them add new skills to become better engineers. However, he assumed that the older team members were already experienced and doing what they wanted to be doing, so there was no need to talk to them about personal goals.
A False Assumption.
For awhile, Craig couldn’t figure out why he didn’t feel as connected to the more experienced engineers. They just weren’t as enthusiastic about working with him as the younger team members.
Craig didn’t think that his older team members would have any personal goals, and that they certainly wouldn’t want to talk to him, with less than half the work experience, about them. He was wrong.
One day, he did have a conversation with one older team member about their personal goals, because they brought it up. He soon realized that there is room for growth even for engineers who have worked for decades; they still want new challenges and to learn new things, even if they’re not looking for promotions.
The Result? Untapped energy & enthusiasm released.
As I experienced in helping Amanda reach her goal, Craig did with his veteran engineers; by learning more about their desires for growth and learning new skills, Craig was able to unleash their energy and enthusiasm. He found the right projects for each engineer to be a part of, and created opportunities to help them learn about things that interested them.
Everyone wants to grow.
His fear about talking about personal goals with those older than him was all in his head. They all had interests and were thrilled he asked. After this change, he found he had an improved relationship with many of the veteran engineers and the team had greater energy. There was some more work on his part to keep it all straight and coordinate efforts, but the impact on the team made it all worth it.
No matter the role someone is in today, and whether they’re just starting in their career or a battle-tested veteran, we all have personal goals. Talk about them with your team members and help plan how you can help them achieve them and you’ll be amazed at the results for how it can improve their morale and energize your team.
And do not fear that you’re developing people to leave you; they’ll do better work while you have them if you do work with them on their goals and if you don’t provide the opportunity for growth, they’ll eventually leave anyways.
More importantly, people remember when you help them achieve their goals. Even if they leave, change teams, or otherwise, they are likely to help you find a replacement, recommend others to work with you, or may even work with you again later in your career.
Are you talking to your team about their personal goals?