Skip to main content

Faculty Insights

Managers as Career Coaches…For Better or Worse

By Wisconsin School of Business

April 24, 2013

When individual contributors become people managers, they are faced with a collection of paradoxes that define what it means to be a manager. New managers are suddenly responsible for what others do, as well as their own performance. They must make their group a team without losing sight of the needs of individuals on the team. They must encourage and judge at the same time.

One of the most difficult dilemmas for these new managers to take on is how to coach a team member’s career aspirations that may send that member packing to another job. Many mature managers have given in to the impulse not to discuss career options with their staff in an attempt to hoard that talent. It is a tempting impulse. Managers are held accountable for getting results. The best team members typically provide the bulk of those results, so the prospect of losing these best performers is problematic.

Hoarding talent only delays the inevitable. The best performers always have options, whether those options are inside their own organization or outside with a competitor. Any manager who is willing to risk losing the best and brightest to a competitor in an attempt to hold on to them for just one more year it not playing a team sport—they’re being selfish.

The best managers attract, retain, and promote their finest talent, not simply attract and retain. The managers include in their routines regular “what’s next for me?” conversations with all of their employees and often work directly with those employees to plan their next career move.  

There most certainly will be a little pain associated with the departure of good employee, but the benefits of planning for such departures—for the company, for the professional growth and engagement of the employee, and for the continuity of a manager’s team and its work—far outweigh the short-term challenge.