Coaching The Career ADD Employee

One of the more critical roles leaders are responsible for is that of a career coach to assist with career pathing the folks on their team. What makes this responsibility critical is that lack of career mobility and guidance is a major reason for good employees to leave the organization. Employees are genetically more committed to organizations when they feel connected to it. One curious challenge with coaching a team member down the path of their career is that the employee keeps changing their mind on what their own career looks like. Some demonstrate a kind of career ADD because they change their mind weekly on their own careers, leaving leaders stifled as to where they fit as a career coach, and what the expectations should be for career guidance.

Take the employee who one week expresses an interest in moving over to big data, then a week later they see a fit in product development, then before that fire cools off they already see a transfer over to marketing because it’s creative. Before the echo leaves the room, they have enrolled in a certification program unrelated to anything they have talked about already. Yet, you still want to be a good leadership career coach. Understand that successfully guiding the career ADD employee will require a certain coaching mindset as opposed to a coaching skill. That career coaching mindset looks like:

1. Not judging people. Lets drop the career ADD moniker as it was only used to make a point. What you have is what you have so jump in and meet people where they are.
2. Don’t follow the employee. Every time an employee makes a comment on a new career path, don’t jump into assistant mode with “how can I help you” or “what’s the next step”. First, test their purpose by following the next few steps.
3. Think bigger than the employee. Often, employees view their career in terms of “doing” when they are better served thinking “outcome”. There are so many different and interesting things to do that the options become overwhelming. Help the employee start thinking in terms of where do they want to go or where do they want to end up. This way you as a career coach can test their change of mind by reminding them what the really want, and how this new and exciting idea they have will achieve that “outcome” goal. If it doesn’t, then help the employee understand todays idea in not consistent with what they stated they want.
4. Set a baseline of interests and source of energy. Have the employee complete a good normative assessment with a high data reliability so they connect with how they are naturally wired. For example, if the employee likes following rules and connects to processes, help them see why todays career idea gets them that or doesn’t get them that.
5. Think “what do you want to be known for”. As part of setting a career baseline, have people define their identity of what they want to be known for, at least how they see themselves now. Their definition might be a bit myopic but that’s okay, this self-identity is going to change with career discovery anyway. At least you as a career coach have a sustentative baseline to test beliefs and values. Also as part of this process, have an individual list their critical business values. Where this will play into your coaching for example, is if an employee states “innovation” as a critical value or what they want to be known for, then an accounting role may not be in their future. Now with good questioning, you can help an individual understand that this entire field is out of bounds because it may not let a person be them true innovative selves (again a big thought).
6. Think what doesn’t work. A good career coach helps people focus, and an effective means to accomplish this is to shorten the career options list by quickly remind employees what doesn’t work. Remove the mental weight of a long list of options. Shorter lists of options add clarity, free up thinking space, and don’t deplete mental energy.
7. The answer shows up in the activity. It is okay to learn, and learning takes activity. Some people have known from childhood that they want to be a vet or a pilot but this isn’t common. Know that it is okay to NOT jump right into the final perfect career. Go on a learning path where the goal is to learn and understand oneself. Try some new things not because it’s “the perfect job”, but because learning is the goal and the risk of getting it wrong is not permanent. Getting it right wasn’t the goal anyway.
8. Think gain not loss. As a career coach, understand that people can get locked up on all the shiny things they will lose out on if they make the wrong decision. As a career coach, keep people connected to what they stand to gain in a new role, now what they stand to lose by moving or giving up a certain option.
9. Position other people’s opinions. As an individual pursues career growth they a sure to hear opinions from the masses as to why their decisions are or are not. Help them understand that teammates want to help, but can fall into the trap of overlaying their opinions on others based on what is good for them and not the employee you as the career coach are assisting. Say thank you for their perspective and move on but certainly don’t cement opinions as the truth. Only your employee can determine the truth.

Your success as a leadership career coach is contingent on your mindset not necessarily a skill. Set baselines that employees can connect to, and that you as the leadership career coach can always test ideas and motivations. Make learning okay, and don’t let people attached to downside risks and that emptiness from feeling like they or losing out. Keep people focused on what is and not what isn’t, and you will achieve your own success as a valued leadership career coach.