The Atlas

Fly, little birdie! Fly!

Out of all of Gallup's 12 Elements of Employee Engagement, this week's topic is the one I most often see shrouded in some old school attitudes and a lot of shaming.

There is someone at work who encourages my development.

And while I often find myself surprised that these attitudes and tactics continue to surface, it's really not hard to understand why: someone whose skills and appetite outgrow their current role will eventually move on -- and if the company themselves does not have a role for them, then the only real remaining options are to move somewhere else.

As a manager, I have always felt strongly that my role was to help my team discover their talents, figure out how they could most meaningfully apply them, and then to chase the things that felt the most meaningful to their ability to build the life that they want for themselves. The fact that an inevitable part of that process was that they would quit their current job and I would have to replace them never struck me as a bad thing, anymore than a 5th grade teacher would think it was badthat all the students in this year's class would move onto 6th grade for the next year.

But, make no mistake, if you are a manager and someone on your team quits -- either to take a new job, stay home with a new baby or aging parent, or to start their own business -- it is going to complicate your life in the short-term. So I often see managers looking at this situation from their lens, without considering it from their employees' shoes.

Another aspect of it is that -- despite the actual realities of job-changing and company turnover over the past several decades -- many Americans still stubbornly cling to a Norman Rockwell-esque employment fantasy of working for the same company for an entire lifetime, and use that yardstick to shame themselves and others into feeling guilty for wanting to move on.

My old friend and colleague, Greg Segall, is the CEO and Founder of a very cool tech company named Alyce. And he recently posted on LinkedIn about an employee who left to take a new, exciting job offer that he couldn't match -- and that, despite being sad to lose her, he was excited forthe opportunity the new role offered her. I absolutely love this post by Greg, and I think he captures the spirit of great modern management in it perfectly.

So what is your role as a manager when it comes to supporting your employee's professional development? In companies willing to support investment, there are tangible upsides. But you may not have a lot of influence over that. Consider this instead: personal relationships of value usually out-last the organizational ones. The bosses I've had over the course of my career who were the most meaningful to me personally (for a host of reasons, not the least of which was that theyencouraged my development) have not only remained friends, but have continued to extend me professional opportunities as they have moved to different companies themselves.

If you don't think it's in your best interest as a manager to encourage an employee to grow in ways that might take them to a new company, then maybe think about it as an individual: if you suddenly find yourself in need of a new job, how do you know that it's not a former employee who is going to be in a position to hire you when you most need it?

(And, by the way, it is often helpful to remember that it's more than just your staff who often appreciate this encouragement. After all, Gallup's research doesn't show that this kind of encouragement must only come from the boss.)

Your role as a manager matters in so many ways -- good, bad or otherwise, you are often one of the biggest reasons that someone stays or someone goes. But no job lasts forever, and the real question you need to ask yourself is: At the end of my career, what do I want my legacy to be?

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