Leadership and Career Progression
By Tony Daniello, AVP, Support Services, CDI
Drive success at your organization by helping your team members develop their own careers.
Continuing this series of blog entries on challenges and lessons learned as I personally progressed on my way to a leadership position, I want to focus on leadership and career development and advancement.
Where do you see yourself in the short term? Where do you see your colleagues and direct reports? How about long term? How quickly should someone move up in their career?
Career progression is essential to the health and viability of the company, as well as of each member of the team. As leaders, we have the unique ability to help the team members flourish in their current environment and to help them progress in their careers. One major way to help the team member progress is to help them recognize the end state and the goals — which can take some time to achieve. We can also guide them to recognize that each role they fulfill or level they attain is a valuable experience from the moment it is first offered to the team member.
The diagram below helps visualize how each career progression contributes to their experience. For example, a well-defined career path might lead to a Principal Engineer position as an end state. From left to right, career objectives might include progressions from Jr. Level Engineer to Mid-Level Engineer to Sr. Level Engineer, and finally to Principal Engineer.
The diagram illustrates that experience from each career progression is required to be fully proficient at the end state. It underscores the importance of learning what it takes at each level before progressing to the next one. If the team member rushes to achieve the Principal Engineer position and skips the Sr. Level Engineer position, for example, then the team member’s performance as a Principal Engineer is likely to be limited somewhat due to the lost experience. It takes all the gradient colors to fill the end state box.
In asserting the importance of career experience, it is not my intention to hold people back. As leaders we have the responsibility of ensuring that everyone is as successful as possible, but there will be variability in how fast someone is promoted, and even exceptions that do not reach their full career potential. However, “a rising tide lifts all boats,” and as the team members succeed, so do we as leaders.
Career Development Tips for Employees in Leadership Roles
As you help people with their career objectives, keep the following tips in mind:
- Personal and Professional Progression Takes Time: This is the main message that a leader can provide to the team and is the inspiration for the career progression and experience diagram we saw earlier. Relay to your team members that it takes time to develop into a seasoned engineer or any end state profession. For example, if a team member wanted to be in management, would it make sense for them to run a small team of five people, or run five teams of five people right away? By running a smaller team, they can directly experience the challenges and learn what works and what doesn’t work. Then, as they make progress with more staff or more teams, they can apply these lessons to the larger mix.
- Start with the End State in Mind: Starting with the end state in mind is a great way to achieve success. By envisioning and examining what the end result is, we can always work backwards and determine how to get to this state. As a leader, I always enjoy meeting with the team member and getting an understanding of what drives them, and what interests them. I encourage you to understand what the current business needs are and identify how you can fortify efforts with your team members to align them with these business needs for a win-win situation for everyone. As always, help the team member gain as much experience as possible in their current role and avoid skipping a particular skill or job function.
- Encourage Progressive Engagement and Responsibility: As a team member progresses through their current career objective, ensure that they get some additional responsibilities before advancing to the next objective. This keeps the team member engaged, challenged, and interested in their career, as well as making sure they don’t feel as if they are getting stale at their current level. Escalating their job duties helps pave the way for a smoother transition when they take on their next role.
Leading team members and mentoring their career progression is a very rewarding experience for everyone involved. As a leader, you are improving your skills at developing and leveraging new talent to maximize productivity. As employees, your staff are stimulated and growing their own skill sets and career goals. Meanwhile, as a business enterprise, your organization is delivering innovation and value to existing customers and even expanding with new products and services.