A Framework For Your Team’s Career Growth
Engineering Manager at Atlassian
At my company, Atlassian, we have fixed career ladders. However, my team was not used to having conversations about growth because their previous manager hadn't discussed growth with them much. They weren't progressing as quickly as they could have been, and because most of them were quite introverted they didn't initially communicate their need for growth. However, by building a good relationship with them during one-on-ones, I came to realize that they wanted to grow and wanted to know how they could move up the career ladder.
"When having growth conversations, it's important to have a baseline that you can use to work towards a goal." - Key Quote
Fortunately, Atlassian has growth profiles, which are sets of capabilities and skills. Capabilities are higher level goals such as "Value your craft". Skills are smaller goals that feed into capabilities such as "having technical expertise" or "understanding your team's tech stack". If you don't have anything like this in your organization, your first step should be to implement something like this, so it reflects the things you see as the most important capabilities for your engineers.
I created a page for my team with all of the capabilities and I asked them to assess themselves against them. In this case, I used the Dreyfus model, with rankings from one to five, and I provided a description of what a one meant and what a five meant. A one meant you had heard about it but you aren't an expert, while five would mean you are an absolute expert and could even write a book about it. The team ran through it, and I ran through it for each team member and I then had one-on-one conversations with each of my team members to compare our assessments and discuss differences in ratings.
Next, the team member and I worked together to choose three or four personal and business goals to work on for six months. If it was a high performer, I suggested that they pick more business goals, while for other I suggested that they work on strengthening their own skills.
"A great book is 'The Golden Circle' by Simon Sinek." - Key Quote
In the books, he explains that the most important thing is to understand why you're doing something. The golden circle consists of why in the middle, encircled by how, which is encircled by what. I used this framework for my team by asking them to consider why they wanted to do something. This helped them in achieving their goal because if they got stuck they could refer back to why they're working towards that goal. The hows then gave them a general idea of how they would achieve their goals (e.g. working alongside a systems architect), while the whats were concrete plans, such as working on a specific architecture project in order to learn new skills.
Next, I used one-on-ones to do monthly check-ins. I would run through their growth plans and would review where they were at in terms of the whats, whether anything had changed, and what they had learned in order to track their progress.
"Unless your team members are extremely self-driven, it can be challenging to motivate them." - Key Quote
While the framework I used works really well, if you don't continue checking in regularly, your team members are likely to get lost or distracted along the way.
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Engineering Manager at Atlassian
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