Over the years I’ve had many young interviewees ask me questions about my road to success or inquire what skills the top performers in our company possess. Then once they are hired and busy working on exciting projects, the forum for these types of questions doesn’t present itself as naturally. Many team members rely on the feedback they receive regularly from managers or wait for end-of-year performance reviews to evaluate whether they are missing or exceeding expectations, and they stop asking the critical questions that can shorten their learning curve and provide clarity on where they should focus their efforts to reach their goals.
Rather than passively waiting for feedback from a manager on how we are doing, we should proactively seek not only information about what, specifically, we need to be doing to continue our growth momentum, but also seek to understand how those in senior positions managed their own career and growth, because there is much to be learned from the experiences of others.
Depending on the individual relationships with a direct manager, these conversations may come quite naturally, but not everybody is comfortable engaging in these types of discussions with their superiors. At Brand Connections, we created a platform that not only makes it easy for team members to engage with senior management, we give everyone in the company access to the entire leadership team, broadening the learning opportunity far beyond the direct managers, all the way up to the CEO.
Last year we created our “First Thursdays” club, a voluntary, monthly lunch-and-learn conference call held the first Thursday of every month. Each month a different member of our Leadership Team hosts the event. Team members from every department are invited to submit questions in advance for that leader, making it easier for those less assertive people to participate silently on the call, while opening the session up for additional questions during the discussion. Leaders are asked personal and professional questions ranging from “why have you stayed here so long?” and “what was the worst professional mistake you ever made?” to “what’s your most proud accomplishment?” and “did you struggle to decide whether to come back after maternity leave?”
The leaders get the opportunity to show a more real, raw, less guarded side of their personality that few in the organization get to witness. This casual setting has highlighted the depth of experience our leaders offer and enables the team to see that the challenges they are facing today are often very similar to those that their Leadership Team also faced during the course of their career and provide insights about how they overcame those obstacles.
Management can and should listen to the requests for mentoring and communication and make themselves available, but it’s up to the team to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them. So far the platform has been extremely well-received, as our conference rooms are packed each session, and NOT just because of the free pizza. At the request of our team members, we even record each session so those that have conflicts can listen to the discussion when they have time. Another win-win scenario for the BC family.