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Career Development: It’s Not About Money. It’s About Dignity
Why should leaders care about helping employees build their careers? From a bottom-line standpoint, there are compelling reasons. Research shows companies that embed career development into their people management systems significantly increase employee engagement and satisfaction, which translates to higher revenue.
But why is that? Why does that one factor have an impact that far exceeds other likely motivators, such escalations in salary and title? I believe it’s because there is a powerful process at work in a corporate culture that truly supports career development – namely, it demonstrates that the organization honors and supports the dignity of the individual.
When a company commits time, resources, thought, and effort into helping people achieve their career aspirations, it is tangible proof that we respect them. A career, in the broadest sense of the word, is the outward manifestation of what the individual holds most dear outside of their personal relationships. It is core to one’s self-identity, reflecting deeply-held passions, hard-won skills, and long-nurtured dreams.
Enabling employees to excel is what all leaders and managers should aspire to do. In having career conversations with team members, leaders can demonstrate this philosophy by:
- SHOWING RESPECT – Take a genuine interest in what the person does. Understand their goals and challenges. Solicit their views on how the organization can help them. Listen. Listen. Listen.
- NURTURING SELF-DISCOVERY – Help the person discover where their skills and motivation align. That’s the sweet spot for career accomplishment and advancement, and thoughtful guidance from a manager can be life-changing for an employee.
- CREATING A PATHWAY – Help the person develop a strategic plan for advancing their career. Understand and accept that this may come at a personal price to you as a manager. You may lose a valuable team member whose career aspirations are best served by moving laterally or even out of the organization.
A Right Management consultant recently shared a story that exemplifies the power of respect, self-discovery, and finding the right pathway in helping an individual actualize her leadership capabilities.
“I was facilitating a multi-session leadership program and noticed one participant – let’s call her Meg – who seemed annoyed and completely disengaged. She had her arms crossed and was turned away most of the morning, communicating loudly with her actions, ‘I don’t want to be here!’ At break I asked her about it. Meg stated she was ‘just an assistant’ and didn’t know why she was here – ‘This is a waste of my time, I don’t lead anyone!’ I asked her to give the program a chance; obviously someone believed in her potential or she wouldn’t have been nominated to attend. Fast forward to the last session a few months later. Meg gave a compelling and heartfelt testimonial about how she now saw herself in a completely different light. Because of her experience in the program, she had more confidence in herself and in what she did, and didn’t feel like a ‘lowly assistant’ any longer. Through her personal brand of leadership, she now believed she could make a difference in the success of her organization and in those that worked with her.”
The role of a leader is to help individuals recognize and expand their personal value, self-confidence, and business contributions. It’s the right thing to do – for the dignity of the individual and for the success of the organization. When people feel a strong sense of personal dignity, the sky is the limit.
By the way, Meg was promoted within the year to a supervisor role.
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