Want to Retain Team Members? Talk About Their Career Path

Action Steps

If you're a manager, try this line of questioning in your next conversation with your teammate. 

  1. Try this line of questioning: 
    What passions or interests do you wish you had more time to explore?
  2. Actively listen to what they say. Don’t interrupt.

  3. Ask:
    How can I help you achieve your goals, personally and professionally?

Many managers fall into a common trap: failing to engage team members in conversations about their career path after the interview cycle. It’s a phenomenon Lisa Evans discusses in a recent Fast Company article.

Historically, most career discussions between employee and manager happen during the annual review. But in today’s work environment, where millennials like me want more frequent updates on our leaders’ perception of our progress, an annual conversation just isn’t good enough.

For high performers, annual reviews only stir up negative feelings.

Why’s she bringing up that client outreach project from the summer? We talked about what went wrong months ago, and I even created a new form and process so that those errors don’t recur next time. Is she just digging for negative feedback?

My responsibilities have changed so much in the last quarter alone. What’s the point of giving feedback on a job I don’t do anymore?

In her article, Evans cites four key benefits of regular career path conversations: managers stay aligned with their team’s overall goals, enabling them to spot opportunities within the company; proactively thwarting an employee’s “grass is greener” mentality, fostering rapport and engagement, and shaping an employee into an even more valuable asset.

I’ve got another: you transcend from manager to mentor.

In the high-performance world, this is huge.

Managers tell people what to do by when. They measure your progress by finishing more in less time.

Mentors inspire people to take action. They measure your progress by how much impact you create.

You can be both. You can disseminate the day-to-day responsibilities, follow up on loose ends, and hire, coach and fire. You can also help your teammates become better people by nurturing their passions and helping them break obstacles to action.

Those leaders -- the ones who catalyze results and help their teams grow personally and professionally -- will be the ones who attract and retain the best talent in the long term.

Managers, try this line of questioning in your next conversation with a teammate:

What passions or interests do you wish you had more time to explore?

Then listen. Actively listen to what they say. Don’t interrupt.

How can I help you achieve your goals, personally and professionally?

Again, listen. They’ll tell you everything you need to know once they believe you’re on their side as an advocate and catalyst.

And above all, remember the old Isaac Newton quote: If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

When you do, you’ll enable much more authentic team conversations. And if your experience is anything like mine, you’ll also inspire unparalleled employee loyalty, a rich and collaborative culture, and increased innovation, creativity and, of course, productivity. 

Marissa Brassfield

Marissa Brassfield is a productivity expert, branding consultant and communication efficiency specialist who helps entrepreneurs and high-performance teams become ridiculously efficient.

Marissa has worked with some of the most visionary entrepreneurs on the planet. She’s dialed in to the frustrations these results-oriented, interrupt-driven individuals have with bureaucracy and suboptimal team performance. Her coaching helps entrepreneurs counteract growth-killing practices and unlock unparalleled performance from their support staff.