“How do I, as a manager, develop my people for the long-term?” That’s the question I explore in this article. As a leader and manager, over my career so far, this has been one of the most important aspects, if not the most important. Indeed, it is why Protagion exists today – to multiply that positive impact of professional growth and evolution across organisations and countries as much as possible, and inspire more professionals to actively manage their careers.
This is the third article in the series prompted by The Six Conversations of a Brilliant Manager* by Alan J Sears. The first article covered my thoughts on the book overall and four of the six conversations: coaching, taking responsibility, addressing performance/behaviour, and performance appraisals. The second article focused on delegation as a manager, and applied that conversation framework to the employee perspective too. Read more for the rest of the third article.
In this series of articles, I’d like to focus on some practical advice for new or aspiring managers, based on The Six Conversations of a Brilliant Manager* by Alan J Sears. It’s an immensely readable book, structured in two parts: first, an engaging fictional story of a new manager (of a team of six), followed by a ‘simple reference guide’ as the author calls it which recaps the key messages.
Alan’s book is based on the concept that many management conversations with the individuals in your team have a structure, which if followed, makes it more likely you will achieve a good outcome for both you and the team member.
Working with leaders and managers from all walks of life, I came to realise that what makes some people more successful than others is the quality of the conversations they have with others… These high performers know that they need to take a different approach to different conversations – and that the simplest way to do that is to have a different structure for each conversation.”
Part of the reason I enjoyed it so much is that it echoes a number of the themes which resonate strongly with us at Protagion, including treating your team members as individuals, adapting your approach to each of them, and allowing them to shine, and taking charge of your own career proactively and not expecting that your organisation will manage it for you.
Early in the book, the fictional manager realised that he “needed to have a completely different conversation with everyone in the team” to make the difference his company needed. He’s an endearing protagonist for the book’s messages, a good-natured and supportive manager who describes his thought pattern with: “I worked out what I thought the problem was, and then where I should start and finish the conversation in order to get to where I wanted to be – and where I wanted the other person to be.” He even chooses specific locations for conversations in the story based on who he would be speaking with, and the nature of the discussion.
Read more for an introduction to the six conversations, covering coaching, taking responsibility, addressing performance/behaviour, delegation, career paths, and performance appraisals, followed by more of my thoughts on the book and other (related) approaches like Patrick Lencioni’s famous business fable The Five Dysfunctions of a Team*. This article then goes into more detail on four of the conversations, leaving delegation and career conversations for future articles in the series.
Many of our proteges and mentors were good students at school and university. This is natural given Protagion’s professional focus, and we’re incredibly proud of our members’ foundational achievements, from good grades to degrees from prestigious institutions to their professional qualifications and beyond.
In Playing Big*, ‘good student’ Tara Mohr discusses her experiences of “...the deeper learning, the lessons slowly absorbed, day by day, from the culture of school itself” and asks:
Like us, she noticed that, in some ways, the skills we learn and behaviours we practice at school and university – those we originally thought were the ingredients for accomplishment – don’t serve us that well in the working world. As Tara puts it: “Blazing a bright trail in [our] careers – moving from ‘good worker bee’ to ‘mover and shaker’ - requires an entirely different set of muscles, skills, and ways of being than the ones [we] honed at school.” While our academic training and conditioning can lead to success at midlevels in our organisations, it does not necessarily translate into success as senior leaders, trailblazers or pioneering innovators.
Read more to explore three approaches which led to success in our studies but which don’t serve us as well in the world of work: advance preparation, adapting to authority, and assuming that good work will speak for itself. These are not universally applicable as all schools and university environments are different, and there will be other examples too, so please share your thoughts with us below the full article.