What Makes a Great People Manager? Part 6: Career Developer

As people managers and leaders we have the awesome opportunity and responsibility to help people grow.

Obviously since our capacity of being a people manager relates mostly and specifically to work then that becomes the growth we talk about first. But when we hit on the right development of ourselves and those we lead, it should absolutely impact us personally too. The better I've become as a leader at work, the better husband, father, sibling, friend and community member I've become.

This is the opportunity we have. To have real impact on people's lives by helping them become the best versions of themselves in every part of their lives. Oh and did I mention that as they perform better at work consequently your team as a whole will perform better.

Find the "Why" and Then the "What"

Many of us have a very specific definition of what career success looks like. Typically it's associated with title and money. I know it has been for me. Only very recently have I started to reevaluate and evolve that definition to more about using my strengths to positively impact others. Ultimately it doesn't matter how we define success. All that matters is that we people managers can help others define their success and move closer to their goal.

Find "Why"

What I've done with anyone I have ever coached or mentored in their career journey has been to start with the question,"why"? Why are you here at this company? Why do you want that promotion? Why do you do what you do?

Many of us don't know and that's typically what we need to do first. Answer why we want that promotion? Is it because you love growing and developing people or because you think that that is just the natural progression of things? If the strengths of your people and their innate drives and motivations are not aligned with the career trajectory they think they want, then they'll be very unhappy even if they're making more and have higher status and prestige.

The heaviest, most emotional and most critical part of helping someone in their career path is first helping them learn their "why".

Then the What

Once the "why" is clear, the "what" becomes the strategy and plan. Having the "why" be clear can help to identify what kinds of things your mentee needs to grow. Then take a look at all the different work and projects in your team and even on other teams to see what would make sense for your mentee to take on that would simultaneously help them grow and take something off your plate or move a project forward.

And of course, don't forgot to have them write it down and plan for regular check ins.

Culture as the Ultimate Development

Everyone knows that culture eats strategy for breakfast. But why? Mostly because the collective attitudes and behaviors of the people within a given organization dictates how people feel and how things get done...or don't.

If those collective norms are focused on performance and development, they can be so much more powerful than even your own direct intervention and mentorship with any one individual on your team.


I've mentioned Dave Marquet before, specifically in part 2 of this series on empowerment. One of my favorite phrases from Marquet is because of the way he ran his ship,

there was no need for a leadership development program. The way they ran the ship was the program.

What he means is that members of the organization were regularly given stretch assignments and decision making power to follow them through. That in and of itself grew people regularly and consistently and even fed off of itself, like a snowball or flywheel effect.

So empowering people isn't just good for innovation and getting things done. It will also be one of the single greatest drivers of personal and professional development for absolutely everyone in the organization.


Teamwork could go hand in hand with culture and it may not. It depends on the "why", core values and strategy of your organization. Either way, teamwork can and absolutely should be pursued if you want to provide every opportunity for growth possible to you team.

You see because when a team is really cohesive that means they are being vulnerable and transparent to one another and are so invested in each other that they would never withhold feedback from each other. Because they care so much about each other and the team's success that they won't allow any single member hold themselves or the team back in any way. If someone on a highly cohesive team is struggling, the rest of the team doesn't hesitate to dive in and help them, which in turn improves their skill and performance along with the rest of the team.

Besides, managers only have one perspective and can potentially be out of tune, off base or just prioritizing something different. It is peers on a team that know exactly how everyone else is performing and ultimately are the best source of developmental feedback.

Moving on to Part 7

Part 7 will be about how we as people managers set vision and why its important. See you next week!

Thanks for reading!


Devin Craig



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