A recent church sermon discussed an element of our church’s vision for the future: prioritizing kids. As the pastor spoke of the members of the village that impact the development and maturity of children, I couldn’t help but see the parallels to organizations developing talent.

Our pastor teared up as he reflected on various people in his life that helped him become the man he is today. In addition to engaged parents, he spoke passionately of inter-generational members of his “village” that influenced his career choice and gave him additional perspectives on choices in life as he grew up.

Talent, just like kids, struggle if they’re left to raise themselves. All too often, once our people are onboarded into the firm, they become solely responsible for driving their own career progression. Now, there are those that are so confident, inquisitive, and goal oriented that they will seek out mentors, coaches, and learning opportunities on their own. But just like kids, many more need to be encouraged and nurtured to draw out their strengths. Their manager plays an important role in this process, but managers, like parents, get overwhelmed and need help in growing young talent.

What role can you play?

You may be thinking:

  • “I am too overwhelmed myself. I don’t have time to help.”
  • “I don’t have any direct reports to interact with.”
  • “I don’t know many of the junior talent to even know who I could help.”
  • “I didn’t have help. I had to figure it out on my own and I succeeded.”
  • “My eyes are set on retirement, so I shouldn’t get involved at this point.”
  • “I don’t know how I could help.”

Not all nurturing looks the same or takes a large amount of time. It’s possible that you will personally benefit when your firm’s people are able to take on more complex client work and responsibilities. One influential way you can participate in talent development is to serve as a coach. You can take an interest in a high-potential team member, whether you know the person or not.

"Everyone needs a coach. It doesn't matter whether you're a basketball player, a tennis player, a gymnast, or a bridge player." - Bill Gates, “Everyone Needs a Coach” TED Talk

Not all coaches are equal. Don’t worry about being the perfect coach, you will learn and improve alongside your coachees throughout the process. Here are best practices to increase your effectiveness:

  • Listen. This is the best way to learn what is important to your coachee. Ask questions and listen to their ideas to help them implement those ideas to drive positive change.
  • Use open-ended questions to get them talking. How, what, why, and when questions provoke more reflective answers.
  • Meet with your coachee regularly. If you meet once or twice a year, they may wonder how sincerely you want help them. It is the responsibility of the coachee to schedule time with you, which means you need to make yourself available. If they are not proactively reaching out to you, check-in with them. Let them know you are thinking of them and are available.
  • Clearly communicate how they can schedule time with you. There may be times your calendar does not show any availability, let them know the best way to reach you if they need to talk.
  • Not all interactions need to be formal, lengthy discussions. A coaching session could be a 15-minute old school phone call. You and your coachee will find the right cadence for your relationship needs.
  • Give them honest input on their ideas, goals, and quality of work (when you have visibility). Most people don’t get enough feedback, so providing encouragement and constructive feedback can be incredibly transformative for your coachee.
  • Ask colleagues for feedback on your coachee. This is especially helpful if you don’t work directly with your coachee through the normal course of business.
  • Serve as their advocate with others in the firm. Everyone may not know your coachee, their talents, vision, and potential. Help them navigate the firm’s priorities and ways to prepare for leadership opportunities.
  • Remove roadblocks that may exist as they strive to progress agreed upon projects and initiatives. Be their voice at the leadership table to keep others aware of the progress or get them resources they need to continue on.

How to start:

  • Let HR and other leaders know you are able and willing to serve as a coach
  • Identify a high-potential person that you have heard discussed in the office
  • Reach out to a person you interacted with where you perceived possibility or had a spark

Then reach out to the person. Ask if they would like to join you for coffee (remote or in-person). Begin building rapport by getting to know them. Ask if they are interested in having a coach by communicating the expectations of what that means. If you are not their manager, let their manager know you are happy to be a coach to their team member and aid in developing their potential.

Coaching is incredibly rewarding. When you invest, your coachee will learn and grow and you will learn through the process as well. As we know, leadership is a journey, and we can learn from every person with whom we engage.

All the best,