My Career, my responsibility: Mapping the path
As April-May rolls around, we conclude annual performance ratings, distribute bonuses, and gear up for the coming year. During this time, organisational goals for the short and long term are being formulated, alongside the creation of our own performance goals. Managers play a pivotal role in aligning the organisation's strategy with the team's objectives to collectively achieve organisational goals. While the top-down approach is employed in the goal-setting process, initiated by the CEO/MD who sets the organisation's strategy as their own goal for the year and disseminates it to the teams.
But what about our personal development goals? What about our careers? Who holds the responsibility? What about our growth and what lies ahead? These questions arise during this time of the year when HR advises and encourages employees to craft their Individual Development Plans (IDPs) to be worked on throughout the year. However, we must ask ourselves if that alone is sufficient and if it will yield the desired outcomes. I believe, NO.
With these questions in mind, I aim to share insights I've gathered from remarkable leaders I've had the privilege of working with. Through this article, I hope to spark thoughts among employees and managers alike.
Let's start with the fundamental question: Who is accountable for your career and development?
While writing this article, I wanted to approach the question of responsibility for our careers and development with an open mind, avoiding any preconceived notions. To gather different perspectives, I conducted a LinkedIn poll and invited individuals to share their views. Here's a summary of the responses I received:
An overwhelming 91% of the respondents believe that they themselves are responsible for their career and development. Managers accounted for 7% of the responses, leaders for 2%, and HR for 0%. What does this tell us?
It clearly indicates that the success or failure of our careers lies squarely in our own hands. We must assume the role of the jockey, steering our own horse (in this case, our career) in the direction we desire. It's akin to adopting the mindset of an entrepreneur, managing our own company and making decisions that shape its trajectory.
However, managing one's career is undeniably a monumental task that cannot be undertaken alone. This is why we have managers who are responsible for coaching, partnering, guiding, acting as role models, and supporting their team members in their career and development. I have observed that many employees struggle with their careers because they lack managers who prioritise people development. Conversely, throughout my career, I have come across numerous managers who are renowned for talent development and nurturing the next generation of leaders. They possess a magnetic quality that attracts talented individuals to their teams. Reflect upon yourself: Are you that talent magnet within your organisation? If not, what steps can you take to become one?
At the end of the day, to support both employees and managers, we have HR, policies, systems, and processes in place. These resources enable individuals to excel in their roles. Performance cycles, training programs, natural learning opportunities, coaching, and more are examples of the offerings designed to help managers and empower employees to grow within the company. This completes the essential triangle of "career and development," but always remember that it all begins with you!
Transitioning to the next section of my article, once you have acknowledged and embraced your role as the driver of your career and development, the question arises: How do you actually go about it?
I suggest here a CARE model, which can assist you in steering your career according to your aspirations, supported by a solid development plan.
Step 1: Current State: The initial phase of your career and development journey involves gaining a clear understanding of your current state. I strongly encourage self-reflection during this stage to discover pertinent answers for yourself. Consider pondering upon the following questions:
- What are the strengths I have acquired over the years?
- What are some of the key experiences I have already gained that can be leveraged for future roles?
- How do others perceive me? If I were to ask my peers, what are the top three positive attributes they would mention?
- What aspects of my current role do I enjoy the most?
- What aspects of my current role do I not enjoy and would like to avoid in future positions?
Another effective approach to assessing your current state is through self-assessment, followed by an evaluation from your manager using behavioral and functional competency frameworks. These frameworks provide a comprehensive overview of your strengths and areas for development, which will prove valuable in Step 3 when taking action.
Once you have collected your thoughts and gained insights into your current state, you will realise that you possess a repository of your top strengths and areas for development. Some of these development areas may be focused on your current role. Hence, it is important to ask yourself about your aspirational role.
Step 2: Aspirational State: After reflecting on your current state and gaining insights, you will discover a collection of your top strengths and areas for development. Some of these areas may align with your current role, making it important to consider your aspirational role.
Each individual will have a unique aspirational role. Some may aspire to become a CXO, while others aim to become technical experts, and some may find fulfillment in their current positions. All of these aspirations are valid, but it is crucial to have clarity on where you want to go next.
To achieve this clarity, consider asking yourself the following questions:
Where do I see myself in 5 years? What about 10 years? What role do I envision retiring from? What are the intermediate roles that can lead me to my desired destination role?
Step 3: Reflect and Act: At this stage, you have gained clarity on your desired career path and have identified your strengths and areas for development from Step 1. Now is the time to bring these two aspects together and create a robust development plan.
I strongly believe in the 70-20-10 model of development, which has personally benefited me. This model, created by the Centre for Creative Leadership in 1996, is based on surveys conducted with nearly 200 executives who self-reported how they believed they learned. It is widely used across the world for employee development.
The 70-20-10 model states: 70% of learning happens on-the-job. This includes engaging in challenging projects, shadowing managers, interacting with customers, handling tasks of team members on extended leave, participating in media interactions, negotiating labor agreements, and leaders teaching other leaders. Throughout my career, I have often heard both managers and employees express the need to seek external opportunities to learn. However, they often overlook the valuable learning opportunities available while performing their current roles.
Let's understand the 70% of learning through a famous Indian dish - Biryani!
During one of my recent sessions, I asked participants a question: "What is the 'MOST IMPORTANT' factor in making a delicious Biryani?" The responses varied, with answers like rice, basmati, spices, cooking technique, right ingredients, curd, and more. However, some participants wrote "DUM," and that was an AHA moment for me!
Let me explain why. Biryani is an Indian dish where various ingredients are cooked together in an earthen pot. We combine basmati rice, spices, chicken/mutton/vegetables, curd, salt, and other ingredients inside the pot. We seal the pot with a flour dough to create pressure inside and then cook it over low to medium flame for 15-20 minutes. The cooking time in making biryani is crucial because if we cook it for too long, it will burn, and if we don't cook it enough, it will remain uncooked. Therefore, closely monitoring the cooking time is essential. Once we feel that enough time has passed, we remove it from the flame, break the dough seal, and as we open the lid, we are greeted by the tantalizing aroma, juicy spices, perfectly cooked rice, and a mouth-watering Biryani! (Just writing about it makes me crave one now!)
If you notice, the most important ingredient in making a delectable biryani is the "DUM." The necessary pressure created during the cooking process helps all the ingredients mix together, creating that fresh aroma and delightful biryani.
Similarly, in our own career and development, we need those moments that create the necessary "DUM" to foster our growth. These are the situations that make us uncomfortable, stretch us the most, and challenge our thinking and capabilities. It is through these "DUM" moments that we develop the most. The Center for Creative Leadership discusses this concept in their paper on "vertical development," introducing the concept of "Heat Experiences." Many leaders reach the top because they embrace these heat experiences, which enable them to learn and grow.
In the making of your "Development Biryani," your manager plays the role of a chef. They need to identify those "DUM" moments for you so that you can develop in the process. Timing is important, and your manager should ensure that the "DUM" doesn't lead to burnout or excessive stress. Pulling out of the "DUM" at the right time is critical for successful development.
As you create your Individual Development Plan (IDP), make sure it includes those "DUM" moments. Without them, it might not yield the outcomes you desire. Ask your manager to identify those "DUM" moments and incorporate them into your plan.
20% of learning happens through interactions. This can include coaching, mentoring, interacting with senior leaders, and peer coaching. I have personally benefited from feedback given by peers who closely observe me. Often, we are unaware of our blind spots, and someone who observes us closely can provide valuable feedback, giving us an opportunity to rectify and further develop ourselves.
The remaining 10% of learning comes from formal learning options such as training sessions, books, periodicals, conferences, and seminars.
While creating your IDP, keep the "DUM" in mind and give sufficient emphasis to the 70% and 20% of learning as well.
Recently, during an interaction with a senior leader, I came across another analogy for 70-20-10. He suggested that if we spend 1 day on 10% of training, then we should spend 2 days on the 20% of learning (coaching/mentoring) and allocate 7 days to applying the learnings from the training on the job. These 7 days can be divided into 30 minutes each day over the next two quarters. An interesting thought, isn't it?
Step 4: Evaluate: The last step in career development is evaluating the IDP with a robust cadence and maintaining the rigor. Often, we do a good job of creating an IDP but fail to follow through due to a lack of review mechanisms.
It is crucial to have regular career conversations with your managers and seek their support in navigating your career journey. Remember, you can't do it alone. I strongly recommend being proactive about your own development and scheduling dedicated time on your manager's calendar well in advance. During these meetings, avoid work-related conversations and focus solely on your development. Trust me, it will work wonders. As CCD (a famous Indian coffee chain) says - "A lot can happen over coffee."
A lot can happen over conversation as well!
In conclusion, I leave you with some thoughts to reflect upon:
- Reflect on your confidence in your career goals. Are you clear and confident about where you want to go?
- Assess the strength of your partnership with your manager. How well do you collaborate with them as a close ally for your development?
- Cultivate a mindset of curiosity and a thirst for continuous learning. How committed are you to learning something new every day?
- Consider creating an Individual Development Plan (IDP) if you haven't already. If you have, assess its progress and make adjustments as necessary.
- Are you building yourself for the present or also preparing for the future? Keep in mind the importance of long-term growth and development.
I wish you the best of luck in your career and personal growth! Remember, you are in control, and it's time to take charge. Take action now and embark on your journey of career and development!