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How Managers and Employees Can Impact Employee Development

How Managers and Employees Can Impact Employee Development

Webcast Details

  • Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series
  • Season 6, Episode 35
  • Learn how important development is to engagement, and the roles managers and employees each play in making it happen in this Q12 for Coaches podcast on item Q06.

On this special edition of Called to Coach, we will spend time investigating the experiential, emotional and empirical aspects of each element of Gallup's Q12 engagement instrument and learning how it increases the power of our coaching as a primary driver of success. This series will be hosted by Dr. Mike McDonald, Senior Workplace Consultant at Gallup, who started at Gallup in 1990 as a manager/team leader and has had a variety of roles but has always led a team. One of his primary concerns for managers is one that he's experienced himself: How many well-intentioned team leaders are there who are working really hard but don't have any coaching or context about engagement and how do they lead to engagement through their strengths?

In this session, Mike talks about Q06 -- "There is someone at work who encourages my development." Below is a summary of the conversation. Full audio and video are posted above.

Host Jim Collison: Mike McDonald is our host today. Mike, good to see you on Called to Coach.

Guest host Mike McDonald: Jim, good to see you.

JC: We are talking about Q06 today. And I always say, "This is a really important one." But this one's got some special twists to it as we think about engagement.

MM: You're right, Jim. This element demands a lot of attention. This item starts to sort true manager talent vs. managers who can (only) follow rules and guidance and instruction. This separates what we would call a "great manager" (from the rest).

So we want to use tools in this effort.

The key request in this element (Q06) is to "Help Me Grow." If we walk through that item empirically, emotionally and experientially, I can't help but think about Don Clifton and his quote, "Talent Responds Best to Another Human Being." I love what it stands for -- that I can't lead my team by remote control. You definitely see a separation (of talent) on this item.

JC: I think this item speaks to mentoring and coaching, as we look at some of the talents needed to do this as a manager. We talked about the "someone cares" item; but this is about pushing the person (employee) forward in their progress in the organization. We know (managers') relationships have to be different from how they were in the past. We have a slide from State of the American Workplace that talks about how managers' relationships are changing.

MM: I think (that slide) is so relevant for this (Q12) item. What we've seen in the past was a focus on pay, on my role, on my team leader as boss, on a single annual review, on what I shouldn't do (and corrective action), and on my job. But the shift to the future is to focus on my mission and purpose, on my development, on my team leader as coach, on ongoing conversations, on my strengths, and on my life (holistic).

The workplace is shifting, whether we like it or not, and leaders have an opportunity to get out in front of it.

JC: We try to pin this on millennials, and while this generation happens to be there while this is happening, I don't think the other generations are saying, "I don't want those things." The workplace has matured, and we are realizing that humans want these things. I'm an "X'er" and that applies to me too.

MM: I couldn't agree more. I tell audiences after reviewing this, "I guess I must be a millennial -- I need to check my birth certificate because I want every one of those things." We find that strong agreement with this item declines by age and tenure: More than half of the employees we've studied who are 18 to 24 or who are less than six months into a new job indicate that there is someone who encourages their development. But that slips to just 25% for workers over 55 and to just 20% with workers who have been at their company for 10 years or more.

But the consistency of our need around that item never goes away. So we are failing to sustain this item in an ongoing, enduring way. So we have to change our leadership approach to get this back to a "5."

JC: Mike, do you think there's a bias toward the idea that learning and growing is for the new employees, the students right out of college, the 30-somethings, not for those in their 40s, 50s and even 60s. And I think our numbers show the same need and desire in the workplace just as much for the 40-, 50-, and 60-year-olds as there is for those in their 20s and 30s. Is that right?

MM: I think so, and if we fail (in getting 5s) on this item, our coaching should pay attention to several facets: First, there are no clear growth or career plans for our role. Most organizations devote resources to onboarding new employees, but even after that onboarding period, these same employees need to know what career and future look like.

Second, our managers need to be doing more in their day-to-day and weekly, monthly conversations regarding progress and development (not just performance and productivity -- which makes employees do things because they have to, not because they want to). And I think that's a key shift on this item -- when we lead through progress and development, it always recasts performance into what do I want to do that's also valuable to clients, customers and our own company. So we've got to get managers more involved and hands-on in that regard.

Third, the entire onboarding to extended career growth process is insufficient and ineffective (though the start may be strong -- but in our State of the American Workplace report, only 12% of the U.S. workforce says their company does a great job of onboarding). It's easy to pay attention to a new associate but gets harder when that associate starts to know things, and the assumption is made that the employee will come to the manager when they have questions (and the manager doesn't need to get involved). We can't replace Don's quote, "Talent responds best to another human being."

JC: Mike, this question builds off of questions Q03, Q04 and Q05 (opportunity to do best, praise/recognition, someone at work cares). We did a little survey asking this question -- where it was strong in one direction. Can you talk about that?

MM: There's a really interesting foundation to Q06. Think about the foundation and layers that Q03, Q04 and Q05 add to someone being involved in my growth and encouraging my development relationally. During our development of the Q12 in the 1990s, we had one survey that used "Yes" or "No" responses, rather than a 1 to 5 scale. In one of our interviewing centers with 169 people, on the "supervisor cares" item, every person who took the survey said "Yes."

I get excited about development, when we think about how we can "tee up" items Q03, Q04 and Q05 to drive Q06, it doesn't have to be a formal program -- it's just you being genuinely interested in who I am, and investing in that (and vice versa), and the team leader needs to model that. When 169 people say "Yes," what isn't possible in terms of what they want to aspire to or attain?

JC: I love the tie between Q05 and Q06. The elements all build on one another; none of them lives in a vacuum. If you're trying to develop me and don't care (Q05), that inauthenticity (makes me feel that) you're just trying to get the most productivity out of me and "squeeze me" for everything I can do. So if managers have Q06 higher and Q05 lower, they should ask their team, "How do you feel about your development? Is it authentic?"

When we think about Q06, where does it affect the workplace, and what kinds of benefits does it have?

MM: You touched on some of them already. Right now, 3 in 10 in the U.S. strongly agree that the needs the development (Q06) item suggests are being met. We see direct correlations to absenteeism but also an overflow into our customer and client relationships (profit and customer engagement). If we align people well with the work they do in a way that allows growth, this can bring a new client into our organization or extend an existing client.

We learn better, we apply what we learn faster, and we develop better when we are influenced by other people. This is a strategy to meet a fundamental need, not an option.

So as managers and coaches, we have to be able to navigate a career through the strengths-based needs around that developmental (Q06) item. What does development look like for Jim, with his top 5 strengths? That will look different from Mike's development, with his unique top 5 strengths?

This item represents a "silver bullet" of success. 9 in 10 employees who report having someone at work who encourages their development are engaged. We win decisively there. 1 in 10 are "not engaged," and only 1% are actively disengaged. This is a "can't miss" item.

JC: Mike, does development equal promotion?

MM: Great question. I think that's a trap door. It does not (equal promotion). It doesn't exclude promotion but we develop and grow past promotion. Moving up a vertical ladder doesn't represent true growth. True growth comes around expectations of you as a unique individual with unique talents, and have a need for continual coaching.

At some point, to some degree, pay, impact and recognition are ingredients to verify that we're experiencing growth, but we have to have the "cart behind the horse." It's really about "Am I doing something better and am I better as a person as a result of our involvement (manager-employee) with each other?"

JC: Mike, we spend a lot of time focusing on the manager. But development has responsibility built into it by the contributor. What is the responsibility of the individual in (their own) development?

MM: Our process around engagement should eradicate the ability for any of us to be victims and have a sense of ownership in our own engagement. This element is one of the four that we see most responsible for moving individual contributors from one tier of engagement to another. And this can roll up to a shift in the culture.

If there are gaps in engagement, the individual can identify it and then collaborate and problem-solve, and resolve the problem. So they become their own "performance consultant." It's a great way for us to become the solution to the problem and removes the victim mentality.

JC: We don't mean for the "someone" (in item Q06) to be ourselves, but no one will look out for your career like you do. So in coaching someone, their own focus on their development is as important as their managers' focus. If I've "quit," I have to ask myself whether I'm accepting the opportunities presented to me. And if I'm not, maybe I need to move on. So the individual needs to step up.

MM: We have to "own" our own development; we know our own need to grow and develop. So there's nothing wrong if it's been a while since we've had a growth/development conversation to send out that Outlook invitation (to your manager). Team leaders love it when we "cut them a break" like that and take ownership.

JC: As a manager, I agree that team leaders do love it. It improves the manager's engagement.

MM: I think it's a sign of great leadership. People who can own their own careers may have wiring to be able to own others' careers as well -- this may be a person who can lead a team themselves.

JC: We have some team leader insights.

MM: Yes. I love the value of our Re-Engineering Performance Management paper and would encourage you to take a look at that -- it takes engagement and strengths into conversations. There is one -- the fourth -- titled, "Developmental Coaching."

If we have that conversation, we don't "miss" on this: When we look at this notion of mentoring and someone encouraging our development, sometimes we can overprescribe the structure and level of detail and rigor for that. Truly authentic mentoring resists that kind of stifled environment. So we can have outcomes, but no prescribed steps to arrive at those outcomes.

JC: When students are in college, their future success links to whether they had a mentor in college. But we miss the mentoring in the enterprise these days. I think we could have some healthy mentoring relationships (in the workplace). As coaches and managers, we can get a lot of developmental "lift" by thinking through the mentoring concepts and implementing those so the more experienced work with the least experienced.

In my recruiting role, I hear people say, "We don't have enough time for that." But you don't have enough time NOT to develop the future. That will crush you 100 out of 100 times. It's not an age thing, it's a skills and experience and strengths thing. I think mentoring is the way to get to that, and it's the secret weapon of this question.

MM: We are wired for this. It's not an option. The modeling and mentoring effect can influence your own development. The mirror neurons explain how mentoring works (includes what happens when one person yawns).

JC: Let's get really practical here. We have some advice on some conversations and some best practices we want to share.

MM: As a manager, you should routinely ask yourself:

  • Do I understand which development opportunities are most important to each team member?
  • Do I understand which opportunities are most relevant to each team member's career growth?
  • Have I created shared goals and established expectations with my team?
  • Do I regularly celebrate my employees' successes and achievements?

A lot of times, encouraging my development requires a marker, a milestone, where we pause and say, "Mike, you've come a long way!" or "Mike, this didn't come as far as it could. What are the barriers we need to work to remove?"

In terms of great conversations, we need to tap into what an employee enjoys most about their work. Where are the challenges? What are ways that we are developing as a team? What are ways we could advance our own development as individuals?

Best practices:

  • Providing key milestones or markers that indicate where we want to go and when we have actually arrived
  • Don't look on development as a finished product (key for managers)
  • Celebrate development accomplishments
  • Re-examine your long-serving employees

JC: Back in April (2018), we published a blog called, "Why Managers Must Ask Five Questions to Empower Employees." It highlights for me the importance of staying close to for a lot of this material that we have out there. It's probably the best-kept secret for our coaching community. Final thoughts, Mike, on Q06?

MM: When we think about mentoring, we see so much structure and rigor and programmatic nature to it. But nothing will beat the way we experience work as human beings.

I also make learning a mix of some introspection but also time spent with other people. Our research confirms that we do learn best together. I would encourage us to design our learning experiences to allow space for us to arrive at those outcomes together.

JC: We have some resources that we want to remind everyone of. Mike, can you cover those?

MM: Yes. The first one is our Engagement Champions course. This gets a coach or leader into the science behind engagement, and how a person can coach and lead to engagement at all levels.

The other course we like to reference is Leading High-Performance Teams. If you want to get inside the world of a team leader and how they lead through strengths and engagement, and then on into performance. We've talked about Re-Engineering Performance Management too. And we have Engagement Discussion Cards and My Discussion Question Cards.

JC: Also go to to see what courses are available in your area. Mike, we're halfway through! 6 out of 12 elements. And we appreciate your (listeners') feedback; send it to me at

Mike McDonald's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Ideation, Input, Learner, Achiever and Focus.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:

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