Review: Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go

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Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni. 2019. Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Organizations Need and Employees Want, 2nd ed. Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.: Oakland, CA. 142 pages.

What was your last career-planning conversation like?

Mine took place a long time ago, when I was a cog in the wheel of corporate America. My then-manager and I talked about how I saw myself advancing within the company and what I needed to do to achieve my goals there. The conversation energized me, and that evening I went home with renewed enthusiasm for my job and for my role in the organization. A week or so later, though, my enthusiasm faded as I found myself remembering that I’d had similar conversations with my manager before—and nothing had really changed. (And that’s why, the following year, I left that company and started Mamu Media.)

All of my memories of wasted time and energy caused by a manager who was merely going through the motions came flooding back to me when I recently read Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Organizations Need and Employees Want, by Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni. In this new, updated edition of their 2012 book, the authors present concepts that, even though they draw on basic principle and understandings of human communication, are nonetheless novel and insightful.

For example, they highlight the stark contrast between a conversation with a manager and a lecture with a manager: the former shows the manager’s commitment to—and true interest in—the growth of her team. “Genuine interest,” they point out, “goes a long way toward building loyalty, retention, and results.”

Kaye and Giulioni also urge managers to invest time in developing “hindsight, foresight, and insight”:

  • Hindsight: “a look backward to develop a deep understanding of such things as where employees have been, what they love, and what they’re good at”

  • Foresight: “a bigger-picture look at the broader environment and the business in order to determine what’s changing and what those changes mean for the future”

  • Insight: “where you jointly determine with employees the full range of ways to move forward and the actions to take to achieve career objectives”

By developing these perspectives, managers are better positioned to address their employees’ career development needs. And by helping employees find ways to work toward (and achieve) their advancement goals, managers strengthen their teams and their organizations.

Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go includes many useful exercises and thought-provoking questions. For example, consider whether you’d choose to discuss an employee’s career planning with him or her in a single, two-hour conversation once a year or in twelve ten-minute conversations spread out over the year. “Do the math,” the authors point out. “In the apples to apples comparison, it’s the same 120 minutes just offered up in smaller, bite-size servings”—and those shorter chats are far more effective than a traditional conversation about career goals.

Kaye and Giulioni write that “90 percent of all career-advancing ideas go nowhere.” If you want to stand out from the crowd and contribute to the 10 percent of ideas that do go somewhere, then spend some time with their book. A valuable addition to any manager’s library, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Organizations Need and Employees Want offers both innovation and inspiration.