Update IDPs to Integrate Deliverables and Passions

young game match kids
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Development planning should always start with needs of the business. It is also key to look at the employees’ current skills and future interests.  We also know creating  a written plan is proven to increase the likelihood of acting on the plan. But this skeletal approach to development planning lacks the heart and soul of developing the full person.  I believe it’s time to update our concept of individual development plans (IDPs). Let’s shift IDPs to focus on integrating deliverables and passions in our personal and professional lives.

Integrating Work and Life: One of my least favorite questions is “What is your aspiration?” I will never forget when I was asked that question by our company president. I remember that my very first thought was, ‘I want to be a good mom.’ Then I thought, ‘Can I say that? No that won’t be acceptable. I better say I want my boss’s job.’ What was intended to be an engaging conversation became disheartening. It is perfectly reasonable for the president to expect a work related answer. It is also perfectly human to have multiple, sometimes competing, priorities that would be more insightful to discuss. What if we replaced “What are your career goals in the next 3-5 years?” with “What personal and professional milestones would you like to celebrate in 5 years?” Imagine how powerful it would be to have that insight and how rewarding it would be for employees to know you want to invest in their full life success. This new question also opens a discussion about  transferable skills and on the job learning. It may be hard for your finance manager to get exposure to online consumer behavior at work but easy to tap into through her gig job. It also opens up on the job learning to include volunteer jobs as well as our day job.

Deliverables vs. Door Signs: What if I had answered, “You know the first thing that popped into my mind is I want to be a great mom- which makes me really proud. I also want to continue to grow my career here and am particularly excited about integrating innovation and engagement in our HR practice.” It still doesn’t answer what I want the door sign on my office to read, but it tells you what deliverables excite me, which frankly is a lot more valuable. In our VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) we talk about needing change agility and adaptability but focus development on climbing an org chart. We know that 85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet – which makes “the ability to gain new knowledge more valuable than the knowledge itself.” Identifying experiences that expand learning agility, organizational relationships, and problem solving skills provides both a richer and more realistic approach to employee development.

Passion vs. Plans: “Every day the spirits of millions of people die at the front door of their workplace.” This is the opening sentence of the Workforce article “Focus on Employee Passion Not Employee Engagement.” The article goes on to say that according to a recent survey from Deloitte, only 20 percent of people say they are truly passionate about their work. Their research found that passion is impacted by 12 organizational factors, job factors, and relationship factors. Instead of asking our employees to write up a development plan, what if we started by asking them to assess how well we are stoking their passion? Through a discussion about topics such as perceived autonomy, goal clarity, and connectedness with their leader we can get to the heart of what is impacting their passion and work together to refuel it. If I had been brave enough to share my true aspiration, and the leader had said he would love to hear more about my kids and my ideas about connecting engagement and innovation, it would have been a home run conversation.

Development planning is, and must be, a business exercise. Understanding the skills we need in the future and helping our team develop them is critical. Most development planning practices successfully outline what steps are needed. Unfortunately, most of those same plans are out of step with what employees want for their development. Asking questions like, “Here are the top organizational priorities. I am interested in knowing how you want to help us deliver them,” creates insights, excitement, and a sense of belonging. Let’s shift IDPs to focus on integrating deliverables and passions in our personal and professional lives. This will make them more valuable – and actionable- for our organizations and our employees.

 

 

 

 

Escape from Mentoring Women

Escape Room picture

The word mentor was first introduced as a character in Homer’s Odyssey. Odysseus, king of Ithaca, fights in the Trojan War. Odysseus turns over the care of his household and son to Mentor, because Mentor is trusted to act in Odysseus’s image. In today’s rendition of mentoring, we connect a senior, more experienced,  leader with a junior, up and coming, employee in the organization. Mentors are expected to share their experience and insights with their mentees to illuminate their work odyssey. Many mentoring programs focus on giving women a hand up in the organization. There is data to support this idea- according to a Forbes article, employees who received mentoring were promoted 5 times more often than those who did not. So what’s wrong with mentoring women? Mentoring, in its traditional format, reinforces the idea that men have the answers and experience needed to succeed and that women will succeed if they can be trusted do exactly as their male mentor would do. Instead, I’d like to propose a new model for mentoring that looks more like an Escape Room game- one focused on outcomes, challenging assumptions, and solving problems.

Focusing on outcomes. Mentors can be good sounding boards. Many mentoring meetings are a safe space to blow off a little steam, and a place to get some advice on what you could do differently next time. However, looking backwards rarely moves us forward. What if instead of just situational coaching, mentors and mentees focused on outcomes and used mentoring sessions to talk about obstacles, relationships, and skills needed to get to that outcome? When you enter an escape room you begin an odyssey — there is a mission, there will be challenges, and there is a timeline in which the outcome must be reached. Some of my best mentoring meetings helped me shift my focus from my frustration with a particular incident to identifying my goal around a bigger outcome. My mentors and I identified landmines, fiefdoms, and holy grails and these could impact my desired outcome. They respected that this was my quest and didn’t offer answers but instead prompted my thinking.

Challenging Assumptions. You see a clock in the escape room and it says it’s 12:00. Is that a fact, a falsehood, or a clue? You will need to take it down, turn it over, and evaluate it to find out. Successful mentors spend a lot of time challenging assumptions. Just because I took this career path, does that mean it is the only way? Or the right way for you? I have been successful because I am a confident extrovert. Does that mean I believe collaborative introverts don’t make good leaders? We have never had flexible scheduling here, so you will need to accept that. Or maybe I could help you bring your case for why that change is needed to the right people. Mentees also need to challenge their assumptions. I have to take that job to get ahead even though I hate it. I can’t take that assignment – I have two young kids and can’t take on anything else. I have to take that assignment even though I have two young kids and I am ready to quit. Good mentoring discussions take down the clock and look at it from all angles. What am I missing? What else could be? What if would happen if… Sparking that kind of critical thinking is a good for building relationships and for building business possibilities.

Solving problems. My biggest frustration with mentoring programs is when we build a plank over shark filled waters, then pat ourselves on the back that we have created a path to success. The sharks are still there. What if instead of teaching people how to precariously balance their way through a broken system, we instead focused on the system? HR analytics can be a good place to start- in addition to perceptions we hear or feel, what does the data tell us is holding women back? What roles have the fastest promotion rates for women? The slowest? Is this different for men? What functions have the most women in individual contributor roles and the fewest in leadership? Do high potential women advance at the same rate as similarly situated male counterparts? These questions allow us to look at root causes and discuss potential solutions. In an escape room the whole team needs to get past the challenge to succeed. We all need to put our pieces of the code together in order to open the door. Helping one individual can be a start but can’t be the end to a successful quest.

Homer said, “There is no greater fame for a man than that which he wins with his footwork or the skill of his hands.” Mentees can and want to succeed on their own path, using their own ideas and approaches. Mentors can play an important role in organizations by helping mentees focus on outcomes, challenge assumptions, and solve problems. If we all go all in, we can escape the fallacy of traditional mentoring and succeed in advancing women and advancing our business goals.