Alice Twu
September 20, 2023

Your employees need a career coach, here’s how to become one

One of the most effective ways to retain talent is to invest in their personal and professional growth. 94% of employees say they would stay with an organization longer if leaders invested in their skill-based training and education by providing professional development stipends.

Leaders can prioritize employees’ professional growth by becoming effective career coaches and helping employees recognize their value in the workplace. Career coaching also helps managers understand their team members’ career goals and uncover any roadblocks that prevent them from meeting expectations.

Our team outlined 5 ways managers can become successful career coaches, build high-performing teams, and help increase engagement, productivity, and overall satisfaction.  

Understand and adapt your leadership style.

Understanding your leadership style is the first step to building trust with your team. Traditional management style is typically directive, telling employees what to do and solving the problems for them, or laissez-faire, not interfering with employees who are doing a great job.  

Management styles have shifted to a coaching role, where leaders must be more non-directive. This type of management consists of listening, questioning, and withholding judgment. The purpose is to guide employees to resolve problems and cope with challenging situations independently.

Leaders should aspire to the highest form of coaching – situational. This is where you use both directive and nondirective styles accordingly to adapt to the employee’s specific needs. For example, an employee might come to you because of a conflict with another team member. You may have to do some directive coaching to keep the project moving and meet company goals. However, deeper issues are likely at play that require active listening and asking questions to help the employee resolve the problem with their coworker independently, or with the help of HR.

Have honest conversations about career goals to help your employees advance.

Honest conversations about career goals help you build trust and let your employees know you’re committed to their growth.

Here are 5 questions you can ask to help start these conversations:

  • What can I do to make you more comfortable in your role and at this company?
  • How would you like to receive recognition and feedback?
  • What can I do to help you do your job effectively?
  • What work do you enjoy doing or want to do more of?
  • What skills would you like to improve on?

An effective career coach helps their team gain short-term and long-term wins to reach their goals. It’s important to revisit these goals regularly to hold team members accountable and measure their progress.

Avoid micromanaging to build trust.

No one likes to be micromanaged, especially high-performers. Micromanagement can look like asking for frequent updates, not delegating work, and telling employees exactly how they should do tasks. It can create more work on everyone’s part and leads to an atmosphere of distrust.

Instead, work to build trust by giving your employees the flexibility to determine their due dates and work style, as long as it fits within the team's overall project plan. This helps foster a sense of accountability and ownership. Set clear expectations early on and check in weekly, whether it’s an email or a brief 1:1 meeting to see how progress is going.

Work together to solve current roadblocks and ensure your employees aren’t alone.

A few roadblocks employees may experience in their role are unclear expectations, lack of time to complete tasks, low self-confidence, lack of visibility, or even feeling like they don’t belong. This can lead to low engagement and performance.

Finding solutions to these problems alone may be out of your team member’s reach. As a career coach, you can help identify the root of the problem and talk through actionable solutions together.

Managers can help employees solve common challenges by:

  • Extending a deadline
  • Providing more details about a project
  • Giving employees time off to recharge
  • Delegating tasks to ease their workload

Give and request feedback often.

Employees are 3x more engaged when they receive daily feedback from their managers vs. annual feedback. An effective career coach gives constructive feedback promptly to help provide clear expectations.

Just as leaders share feedback to help their employees’ learning and growth, leaders should also request feedback so team members recognize they work in a safe space where everyone’s voices, ideas, and opinions are valued.

Learn more about building a supportive, engaging, and inclusive company culture.

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