Leadership development has to operate in two dimensions to have a real impact: Employees need to know what development opportunities are available in your organization, and managers need to know what their employees’ career goals and aspirations are. That calls for communication—a conversation with each employee about his or her career prospects. For a productive talk, prepare by answering these questions ahead of time:
- What is the employee’s real potential? Analyze factors like employee drive, performance, willingness to learn, and communication skills to determine how far you believe the employee could go in your organization.
- What are the employee’s most important strengths? Identifying what your employee is best at will help you direct him or her toward the right role, one that fits the employee’s talents. Analyzing employees’ strengths will also help you spot gaps and weaknesses that need to be addressed before your associates can move upward.
- What does the employee need? Additional skills training is one obvious answer, but don’t forget other developmental options, like rotating to jobs in different areas of your organization to build leadership skills. And remember that you may have to build employees’ confidence level before they believe they’re ready for advancement.
- What’s the next immediate step? Be ready to suggest an assignment that will help the employee develop and grow. Heading up a team or improving interpersonal skills are two possibilities. Listen to the employee’s own thoughts—he or she might have good ideas about short-term goals or projects.
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