One of the most important parts of career advancement is having effective development conversations. Which is why it’s so bothersome that they’re done wrong more often than not. Just calling a meeting a development conversation doesn’t make it one. Depending on the content of the meeting you could be having a project meeting, a performance convo, or simply a touchpoint.
The reason effective development convos are paramount to your career growth is because they are the only way for you to know the right things to spend time on that add value to get the result you want. If you’re an employee, that result might be to advance to another department or get a promotion in your current department. If you’re the boss then the result you’re after is building a strong team to help you hit your department KPIs (which in turn helps you with your career opportunities).
If you want to make sure you’re having effective development conversations, then grab my free convo template and workbook to set you up for success. Use this in your upcoming meeting to see the difference for yourself.
How do you know that you’re not having effective development conversations? Check for these 5 signs:
- You have no idea what to write/to expect in your annual/semi-annual performance reviews.
- You have been passed over for promotions and opportunities and don’t know why.
- You’re very busy with work, but still not getting the results you want for yourself or your team.
- You feel frustrated that you don’t know what to do and/or resentful that you’re working so hard and it isn’t moving you forward.
- You’re ready to quit. *Note: If you’re the boss, you continue to lose good people too.
These are all just symptoms of a larger issue. The great news is, it’s simple to fix, just takes some planning. First, we need to identify the main issue(s). Ask yourself these questions:
Are clear expectations being set?
A sure sign that you didn’t have an effective development meeting is that you left still not knowing what needs to happen next. If the goal is to develop yourself or to develop your employees then there should be a few specific action items and ways to demonstrate that prior to the next meeting.
For instance, if I’m working with an employee that wants to become a Supervisor and they need to work on their team building skills, then we’re going to discuss a plan of how they can improve in that area. Prior to the next meeting I might ask her to provide me with three team building examples and to make a connection with a specific team member.
Are there any goals being set for the long-term?
Yes, short-term goals are important but if that’s all that’s being discussed, then these are not development meetings. A development conversation has to have a long-term focus in mind. Even though you’ll break down the progress into smaller goals you must make sure you’re always connecting that to the larger goal. Are the actions being taken moving closer to the goal? Is the plan working or does it need to be adjusted? Has the goal changed for the boss, the company, or the employee?
By all means, celebrate the small successes and recognize performance – but keep your eye on the prize. Make sure that the wins are ones that are actually adding value and contributing to your overall goal.
Is there an exchange of feedback?
If you know me at all, you know how much I love giving and receiving feedback. I understand not everyone feels the same, and tend to avoid having these difficult conversations. If development conversations are the vehicle to help you advance your career, feedback is the gas that keeps the car running. One doesn’t work without the other.
If it helps, try looking at feedback as your measurement for success in your development plan. If you go into a meeting and have absolutely no positive or constructive feedback to share then you’re doing it wrong. It means you’re not properly monitoring, reviewing, or reflecting on the action items that were supposed to be completed beforehand. If the action items didn’t get completed (well that is feedback in itself) then you need to adjust the frequency of your meetings to allow more time, or make the action items smaller. The point is, adjust whatever you need so that feedback can be provided and discussed every single time.
Once you’ve identified which areas above are missing in your conversations, you should immediately work to improve them. You can use my workbook to see exactly how to do this, or set up a 1-on-1 coaching session with me for more customized advice.
Of course I’m not saying you should never have any project, performance, or touchpoint conversations. There’s a time and place for those as well. Using the development conversation template will be very helpful so you can see the difference, get better results and stay focused not to revert back into just those performance or project meetings alone. I know they look similar so it’s easy to get confused. Just remember that the main difference in a development conversation is that you should have clear expectations for your long-term goals and feedback to make sure you’re heading in that direction.