Personal Development Isn’t Personal: 3 Tips For Getting Your Manager Involved

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One of the boxes on most performance appraisal forms is a summary of the individual’s plans for development during the ensuing year.  Such plans are usually sketchy.  They most often include some outside or internally sponsored course or program the individual could attend.  But, there is often a shortage of detailed planning and such plans often give way to the pressures of the job as the year unfolds.

Bottom line, the percentage of such plans that get completed is rather small.  Yet most would agree that one key to improving your career and meeting long-term aspirations is to constantly strive to improve your knowledge and skills.  That applies to the professional staff of the firm, and it equally applies to the cadre of managers in the firm.

How could we improve the likelihood of such plans being actually implemented?  How could we elevate both the quantity and quality of such plans moving from paper into actual performance?  My first recommendation is to involve your manager in your personal development.  Note that I didn’t say, “Inform you manager.”  The message is to truly involve your immediate boss in your development.

Why managerial involvement?

Here’s some data:

The data above comes from a study of 61 financial managers. They were asked to describe the level of support they had received from their current manager in their own development process. They were also asked to evaluate the degree to which they thought they had improved in their leadership skills. This is not a huge study and is based on the perceptions of the individuals involved. Nevertheless, note the dramatic relationship between the amount of progress these leaders felt they had made and the level of support they had received from their manager.

What the manager needs to know and do

In order for managers to help in my individual development, they need some information.  Here are a few of the things I think they should know:

  1. What are my career goals and ambitions?
  2. What do I think I need from management to further my career?
  3. What would I like to do in order to further my career ambitions?

Then there are some things the manager needs to do:

  1. Schedule time for periodic coaching conversations.
  2. Allocate part of the time to career discussions.
  3. Identify and create time for formal development sessions through the year.
  4. Plan and schedule follow-up conversations after development programs to review how new knowledge and skills are being applied.

How to get the manager involved

It could be argued that subordinate development is part of every manager’s job and that the manager should take the initiative and make it happen.  While that is nice in theory, those who have worked in large organizations know this is the exception, not the rule.

Why doesn’t it happen? The reasons range from the time crunch leaders live with to the fact that some managers don’t exactly know how to do it.  Others aren’t sure how it will be received by the subordinate.  Some may note that no-one did it for them.  Immediate pressures win out in the competition for what’s top-of-mind.

In a conversation with a group of managers, I asked them about the level of managerial involvement they had received in the time since attending a development session some ten months earlier.  On a scale of 1 to 10, (with 10 being high involvement) the average was between a 2 and 3.  I asked if I should intervene and let the next level of managers above them know that they had collectively not followed through as they should.  Virtually to a person, the group said, “No.”  In different words, the same message was expressed: “We didn’t invite them to get involved.” “We’re responsible for their lack of involvement.” -

Since then, every comparable group I’ve talked with following an original leadership development experience has confirmed their belief that their leaders would be far more involved if only they were invited and  knew they were wanted and needed.

When the manager gets involved, everyone wins.  The likelihood of the individual following through on their development plan increases substantially.  Their skill level improves.  The manager is more likely to fulfill a major responsibility they know they have.  The organization benefits from improved performance and from having a better-developed pool of talent. So if you want to jump-start your development, take immediate steps to get your manager involved.  Everyone wins in the process.

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