How to help the people you manage set their career goals

In this post Laura Kirsop, one of our Senior Product Managers, shares how line managers in the Product Management team at FutureLearn encourage their people to set career goals.

UK workers change their job every five years on average and in the London technology sector this is likely even higher.

In the Product Management team at FutureLearn we know people aren’t going to be with us forever so we ask them about their career aspirations and work out how their nearer-term objectives can help them on that journey.

The main way we do this is through running a career vision session.

What is a career vision session?

In a career vision session line managers ask their reports a series of questions and help them capture the outputs. The key questions we’ve been using are:

  • What do you think are your strengths?
  • What do you think are your weaknesses?
  • Where do you want to be in ten or more years?

We then refine the latter question into a clear goal using the first step of the GROW model. This has lead to some really interesting conversation and the chance to be honest with your manager about what you really want in life has been refreshing.

An example of some of our long-term goals are:

“Be a freelance agile coach for product teams in London and Bristol.”

“Be a ‘Head of’ or ‘C level’ product person in a social enterprise.”

“Work with early stage start-ups and founders to help them define and build their first products.”

How does this vision translate into nearer-term objectives?

Once you have established your goal, the GROW model encourages you to walk the person through the next three steps using open ended questioning.

  1. Examine the current reality

Where are you now? What have you done already to get to your goal? How far away are you from it?

2. Explore the options

What could you try to move yourself further towards your goal? What else could you do? What might the challenges and benefits be of this approach? What might get in your way?

3. Establish the way forward

What steps are you going to take to get towards your goal? What can you do this week? This month? How likely is this to succeed? What will you do if it doesn’t?

During the session we usually take notes for the person we are coaching to share with them afterwards. These always include their articulated goal and the steps they will take to get there.

After the session

We make sure that the steps to get to their goal are included in their professional development objectives, alongside other items that relate to their current role.

I make sure I have dedicated coaching sessions with those that I line manage. The format and frequency of these are agreed with each individual but they usually take place once a month. In them we push aside day-to-day concerns and focus entirely on their professional development objectives and their progress towards achieving them.

I’d like to thank Gavin Aubrey for introducing me and other members of the FutureLearn team to the GROW model.

We’d love to hear how other companies approach setting goals with their team, so please do share your thoughts and own experiences in the comments below.