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A while ago I chatted to the Director of L&D at Facebook. He told me how they have separate career tracks for managers and technical specialists. They recognise that people too often want to become managers because it’s the only route to increase their salary, or they’re promoted to management because their managers don’t have another route to promote or increase pay. And after this promotion they all too often don’t even have development or support in how to lead a team. Or if they do it’s not effective.

Walking upstairs

These are the outcomes you’ll get when, to go up, you have to become a manager:

1) The people part is viewed as an add-on to the technical* part of the job. Not the priority. And when the technical bit is the part someone really loves, and the part which has brought them success, it’s hard to step away from that. (*Technical isn’t just about IT, it’s any specialism – marketing, sales, buying, supply chain, finance,…HR!)

2) Not wanting to step away from the technical makes coaching the team really hard because the manager believes they have the best skills, knowledge and experience and they want to impart that / control the team’s decisions. Even with the best intent in imparting that wisdom, if it’s the manager’s predominant style the team will feel disempowered and will disengage.

3) The lack of investment in leadership development further reinforces the message that the people part of the job is an insignificant add-on. And then when managers find the people part tough they think it must be their fault, or that they have the wrong people in their team, and so shrink away from their responsibilities, or change the team members = upheaval & cost.

4) Overall disengagement of managers and their teams which impacts productivity and increases turnover

And if your org says it values people and their development then, in this world where values are coming under more scrutiny from employees, that serious mis-match could be your un-doing in attracting and retaining the people you need.

So what’s the alternative?

This post reminded me of the dual career track solution : Move up as technical or leadership. Cross tracks in either direction – with development / support & the chance to go back if it doesn’t work. Feel amazing for doing a job you love. Have amazing teams who are praised as well as challenged through developmental feedback. Achieve great results!

Why do we not see more dual career tracks?

What would stop your organisation separating technical specialisms from leadership (which if we truly believe in people and their development, is actually the technical specialism of people!)?

Those things that are stopping you, are they true or are they just ‘how they’ve always been done’?

There are increasing numbers of orgs who are ripping up the rule book of how we make work a place we want to be.

If you really want this to happen you can make it so – Facebook have, and no doubt others too. So what’s REALLY stopping you?

[Photo credit –]

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