Jane was just promoted to a manager role. It's her first time leading a team. She's excited... and she's nervous. Her team needs to hit their targets. They need to execute and she needs to lead.
But nobody wants a job. They want a journey. They want to grow as professionals. Jane's team members are in the Developing arena. And their development is also Jane's responsibility.
That's what the Mentoring arena is all about: supporting the growth of others.
Jane was promoted to manager because she was a star performer. And star performers are the greatest risk for the new manager trap. What’s that?
That's when a star performer can't let go of his old role, which earned him rewards and accolades. He micro-manages and fails to delegate. He runs around doing everyone's job for them. And as a result, has no time to actually support his team.
He cites "quality control" or "demanding excellence" as an excuse for this. But what he suffers from is imposter syndrome. He's grown accustomed to being a top performer. And managing people is a new skillset. He's not good at it yet. So he sticks to what he knows—his old role. Of course this makes his team miserable. They check out. They get bored. And bored people quit.
Here's one sign of a great manager: people on their teams get better. They grow as professionals and they grow as people.
A manager has two primary outputs: value for the client and valuable professionals.
Managers create the conditions for growth at your agency. They are gardeners of talent. Great managers will create a flourishing team. Poor managers will stagnate, even poison, the growth of your people.
Failing to support new managers is a huge business risk. Agencies disregard this at their own peril.
Remember, your agency is a conduit for talent. New managers must understand that building people is supremely valuable to an agency. Doing so is an incredible honor. Embrace that, and the impact on your agency will sky rocket.
Where might Jane, as a new manager, start to create the conditions for growth?
If Jane's an expert at the role her team members are now performing, then she's the best person to help them calibrate their own mastery of that role. She can help create a sharp Edge for her team.
Jane can help the team design a clear and practical role description. This gives everyone a shared understanding of their job.
Each team member can then self-rate their mastery of the skills and activities of the role. Where do they feel like a beginner? Where do they feel competent? And where might they be an expert?
The role description and mastery levels are the foundation for a profound conversation. Jane sits down 1-on-1 with each team member and they discuss their self-rating. To frame this conversation Jane asks, "How can I help you become the best professional you can be?" They each articulate their perspective and deepen their understanding. They calibrate.
The outcome is clarity and focus: they both agree on what good looks like and where to grow. The "stretch" in the role becomes obvious and inspiring.
Coaching is the best way to help someone develop as a professional. But it's often misunderstood.
Coaching doesn't mean telling others what to do or pointing out where they're wrong. Coaching isn't about cramming knowledge and advice into someone's head. And it's certainly not about having all the answers.
Coaching is about having great questions.
To "educate" means "to draw out". This is the essence of good coaching—drawing out a person's innate intelligence. Coaching is about building the muscles of observation and reflection. It's about helping someone explore their own mind and make sense of their experience.
And those questions are often deceptively simple. Here are some of our favorites5:
Learning to coach is a great Journey for Jane to embark on as a new manager. (It's great for an experienced manager, too!) After a few months of practice, Jane will find she can coach someone in 10 to 15 minutes. It's really that simple, though simple doesn't mean easy.
As a result of coaching her team, Jane will start slowing down. She'll delegate more. She'll give her team space to learn and grow, and they'll develop faster as a result. By coaching her people, Jane gives her team the skills to better make meaning of their own experiences. And that can only accelerate their development into elite professionals.
Facilitating is, essentially, coaching in a group setting. Facilitating is using group dynamics to draw out wisdom and create shared understanding. It's about designing conversations.
Maybe the conversation is a team retrospective on the last deal they closed. Maybe it's a strategy session on a big new opportunity. Or perhaps it's to set team learning goals for the next quarter. Whatever the topic, facilitated group conversations will clarify issues and generate ideas.
Here are some key facilitation skills for Jane to master:
One of the most powerful conversations Jane can design for her team is a Journey Meeting. A Journey is a specific focus for developing some aspect of yourself over a few months. It's not a plan. It's a destination.
Jane gathers her team members, all of whom are finishing their current Journey. Each person tells the team about their Journey and how they grew. They discuss what they noticed, what surprised them, what challenges they overcame, and in what way they're a more effective professional.
Consider the energy and positivity of that conversation. Everyone is getting better. Everyone is being noticed and congratulated. Everyone is seen for the person they are right now and the value they bring to the team. That is some serious validation going on.
People don't want to work for companies. They want to work in communities.
Journey Meetings create community. This is how Jane develops strong Home within her team.
Once everyone has described their recent Journey, Jane asks them to share their next Journey. They take turns sharing what skill or activity they want to focus on, and how they will know they've reached their destination.
This creates "red car syndrome". Now that everyone understands their colleagues Journeys, they notice opportunities to help. Sarah wants to be a better negotiator, so Terence connects her with his brother who's a contracts attorney. Terence wants to improve his spreadsheet skills, so Lakshmi offers weekly Excel coaching (she used to work in finance). And so on.
Learning is a team sport. With a Journey Meeting, Jane is creating the conditions for her team to learn and grow together.
5 Many of these come from the excellent book The Coaching Habit, which can be read in an afternoon and put into practice the next day.