Within the sphere of influence that revolves around your career, there are many resources you may leverage for improvement. Among these resources are the people you interact with. Gathering and leveraging their input in order to find ways to improve your skills, capabilities, mindsets and attitudes, is critical to reaching your full potential.
Today, Kelley Coaching and Consulting interviews Nick Horvat, National Retail Account Executive of Sprint. Our goal: To help you determine your best resource for career development, and personal improvement.
Is a Supervisor Your Best Source?
While you should tap into your leader’s experience and knowledge to grow, surprisingly, your best performance coach may not your supervisor. It’s true they were able to work their way up and someone believed them good enough for the next level. Certainly, they should help to guide you and offer ways to improve.
Nick Horvat says, “When asking for feedback from your manager, be open to what you hear. You may not always get the feedback you want or expect.”
Why Not Rely on Your Supervisor As Your Main Source of Professional Development:
There are a few reasons why you should not put all your professional development eggs in the basket of your supervisor.
They Could Have An Agenda
Your success it their success as well. As a result, your direct supervisor generally pushes you to do what they want in order to create their version of success. Are they really seeking to understand what you want to improve?
There May Be Communication Barriers
Are you able to openly discuss things with them? According to a survey by Staffbay, out of 15,000 employees polled, 87% did not fully trust their boss. Without trust, true growth through coaching may be hindered. Along with lack of trust, other barriers may include; time constraints, company policies and process around training, or past negative experiences.
They May Be Assuming What You Need To Work On
Where are they gathering data to help you improve? Are they looking at metrics that could be skewed or not based on reality? Information from your supervisor, along with solid coaching around improvement areas can certainly help. Yet again, most supervisors will tell you what to fix and how they think you should best fix it. Without regular observation and targeted development around specific areas of improvement, assumption based training may not generate the desired results.
Is a Third Party Coach Your Best Source?
You will gain a lot from a third party coach. I, myself am a business coach and help company leaders from many different businesses reach their objectives. I also hire my own coach and have seen much of my success through this type of development. With a third party coach, the agenda of the supervisor doesn’t exist. In this case, the coach is generally more effective at seeking to understand and help. You should certainly have a third party coach help provide that necessary outside perspective.
Horvat says, “A third party mentor has always been a best practice I use. Someone outside your company allows for unbiased opinions which potentially brings new ideas or skills to the table.”
Thus, third parties are excellent resources for performance increases in any aspect of business. However, there are several obstacles around use of a third party coach that may hinder improvement if not addressed up front.
Be mindful of these two potential roadblocks:
They May Not Understand Your Job Role or Business IQ
A great coach will learn a lot about you, what your trying to accomplish. Together you will co-create a plan to help you get there, and even hold you accountable in your plan! The part they may lack, is their ability to know the true ins-and-outs of your job role. Over time, a coach will learn this, but initially they may not be able to make suggestions that are directly related to specifics on your job. They must be skilled at facilitating your ideas into actionable plans to improve.
They May Not Have Seen You In Action
A coach will listen to things from your perspective and generally see things through your lens. This means they also potentially share your blind spots. If this is the case, potential solutions could be missed. Role-playing with your coach may help, but overall, real world observation and participation makes a difference.
Are Coworkers Your Best Source of Advice?
Your coworkers may offer great insight into what your doing well and what you can improve upon. After all, they get to see you in action and are often either in direct competition with you, or are part of your team. You can also observe and imitate the top performers among your peers to help yourself better succeed.
When it comes to seeking assistance from coworkers, Horvat says, “As a manager, I suggest writing down three to five people you trust and respect in your business and seek out their input on a regular basis. You will gain insight on what works for them and bounce ideas off of them before introducing change to your team.”
Though your coworkers can definitely help you, there are still a few reasons your peers might not be the best performance coaches for your career development and improvement:
They May Be Biased
Are they concerned you’re trying to outshine them? Sometimes, coworkers can put up a guard when they fear you could outperform them. In this case, you may not receive the best advice.
They Won’t Hold You Accountable
A supervisor or third party coach will usually help hold you accountable for your action plans and career development. Your peers are usually worried about ensuring they get their job done, and will not necessarily follow up or help hold you to your commitments for improvement.
Is It Your Clients and People You Serve?
This, often neglected, resource is a never ending well of information, ideas, suggestions, and accountability. The people you sell to, service or serve can be your best performance coach.
Horvat tells us, “If I had to pick one of the four choices to receive feedback from to grow my career, I would choose the customer… I know that if I’m taking what my customers tell me and applying it to my day-to-day role, I can build a business because I’m listening to what drives my business.”
The people we serve are extremely important coaches for several reasons:
Your Improvement Is In Their
As selfish as this sounds, everything people do is based on receiving a payoff. So what’s in it for them in helping you improve? If you’re in sales, the transaction will better for your buyer if you improve in your role. Thus they are willing to help you improve, (especially after the transaction). If you’re a leader, your team will be better off if you improve in your role, thus they are usually willing to help you improve. If you’re in the service industry, your growth will directly improve the services you provide for your clients, thus they are probably willing to help you.
They Have Seen You In Action And Have Directly Engaged With You
When you want to help your child work on a baseball swing, you get in the batter box with them. Review the basics, then watch them swing. As they do they swing, you point out ways for them to improve.
Observation in this way is the best way to point out areas for improvement. In the same way your clients or staff members have worked directly with you and are well aware of what they enjoyed about you. They have also witnessed your processes and behaviors, and know what you can work on.
How To Leverage Your Best Source of Career Advice
We believe those we serve are our most abundant and impactful source of information on areas to improve. Read the surveys they complete, if there are online reviews for what you sell, read the good and the bad to learn. More importantly, start off by asking them in person, upfront, to help you improve by paying attention during the interaction:
“Customer (or team member) I am always wanting to improve in my [process, management style, sales abilities] so that I may better serve you as your [manager, leader, salesperson, customer service rep]. Throughout our time together, would you be willing to pay attention to what I do best and where I can improve? Then later on, could I ask for your opinion on this to help with my performance?”
Here are some questions you can ask regularly, or after each engagement, or salesale, (whatever frequency makes sense for you and the people you ask), that will help you identify what you can do to grow in the most effective way:
- How would you describe [me, my products, my services] to your friends and family?
- What did/do you like best about my [process, sale, product, management style]?
- What did/do you like the least?
- What is one area I could change, add, or remove that would help make this better for you?
- What did I do to meet or exceed your expectations?
- Where did/do I not meet or exceed your expectations?
- Do you have any other suggestions? Or Is there anything else?
We highly suggest diversifying your career performance advice input channels by seeking out great coaching from many angles. By all means, seek input from your supervisor or those above you. Ask your peers what they think you can do better. Hire a business or career coach to help you see through a different perspective, lend support, and build on self accountability. Just remember, the people that are observing you closest and have the most to gain from your improvement are your clients, or the employees that work for you. Actively seek their input and utilize their ideas to best improve your performance.