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Don’t be afraid of career conversations

CategoryManager Tips

In this blog, Jonathan Winter – CEO at The Career Innovation Company – shares advice for managers and says career conversations should be seen as an opportunity not a threat.

If you’re a manager, your team may look to you for help planning their career. That can be an intimidating prospect. What is your role? And what can you expect individuals to do for themselves?

You probably have ‘talent management’ on your agenda all the time: finding, hiring, retaining and growing good people. Yet most people don’t talk about their talent, they talk about their career. And since most invest so much time at work, career is one of the top reasons why they join, stay with, or leave an organisation.

‘Growth experiences are still a top priority: exit interviews show that career opportunities and growth are the most frequent reason cited in voluntary departures.’

Source: Deloitte

Your role as a manager

You may be nervous about holding a career conversation. It’s true, you can’t have all the answers and you may not be able to meet every career expectation. But that’s not a good reason to avoid the conversation.

  • Consider your past experience of employees leaving unexpectedly, or ceasing to perform. What conversations might have made a difference, or lessened the surprise?
  • Think about the best people in your team. How well do you know them personally? How well do you know their strengths? What are their hidden talents?

What’s in it for me?

This presents an opportunity for you as a manager! If you are an effective career coach for your team, you will be able to:

  • Delegate more effectively, by creating assignments that better meet employees’ needs, your needs, and those of your organisation;
  • Learn more about the interests and values of your employees, and uncover hidden or underused skills;
  • Help individuals to be more productive and love what they do, playing to their strengths;
  • Steer people to develop in ways that anticipate future change and opportunities;
  • Motivate individuals to take action and responsibility for their careers;
  • Remove barriers that might derail development;
  • Develop your team’s wider professional network;
  • Engage and retain your best people.

The future of your organisation, the success of the team, and your success as a leader all depend on how well each team member’s talents are realised, how prepared they are for what’s next, and overall how engaged they are.

How it works: Explore, Focus, Act

Individuals look at career development through a slightly different lens. To manage their career, they need to develop self-knowledge and the necessary skills and attitudes to become more agile. You can support them in this through career coaching.

A great manager will coach employees:


  • Reflect with them on who they are, their values, skills and interests.
  • Provide your own, and others’, feedback and offer perspectives on their strengths and their development needs.


  • Discuss the big picture, and changes in the world of work, and anticipate the skills and development needed to respond to these opportunities.
  • Consider with them the range of career and professional development options available.


  • Help them rethink, reconsider or readjust their plans.
  • Collaborate with them to design some of the action steps they’ll take.
  • Connect them with people, at work and in your professional network, who can support their learning or experiences to move them closer to achieving their goals.
  • Link your employees to the support they need through your organisation.

As a manager, you have a vital role to play in helping people navigate all the changes that occur in life, at work and within their wider profession. Career coaching and career development are not one-off events. They work best when they become a regular part of leadership practice – and it’s a practice that most leaders can do more easily, more often and with greater positive impact than you may imagine.

For help on creating career strategies, workshops, online career development courses and resources, please contact us and connect with us @careerinnovator and LinkedIn.

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