Former Facebook HR Exec Says Many Bosses Too Uncomfortable To Ask Hugely Important Question
When she works with employees itching to take the next step in their careers, Sarah Wagener likes to ask a simple question: “Do you believe you’ve mastered your current role?”
Typically, the answer is no.
But Wagener — the chief people officer at DoorDash, a former vice president of human resources at Pandora, and a former recruiting leader at Facebook — often hears a curious follow-up comment: “I haven’t really ever had a conversation this openly about what I’m not that great at or where I’m not as strong.”
Wagener gets why this happens. “As human beings, we tend to like to focus on the stuff that we do really well,” she said. “I know that I love nothing more than to be in my sweet spot.”
That is to say, most of us aren’t inclined to reveal to the person who determines our employment status all the ways we’re falling short.
That’s why Wagener thinks it’s even more important for managers to create a space “where members of your team feel safe and comfortable talking about what they’re not great at just as much as they like talking about the things that they’re really good at.”
Employees may realise there are new challenges to take on even within their current role.
Google has been known to use some version of this strategy. Laszlo Bock, Google’s former senior vice president of people operations, previously said that in conversations with employees, Google managers “spend probably an equal amount of time actually talking about failure” and planning for success.
In fact, talking openly about failure — and even encouraging it — may be an effective way to manage younger workers. An article in Quartz by Jake Poses, a former vice president of product at Thumbtack, posited that managing millennials comes down to letting them fail.
“I often give millennials on my team something that’s a real stretch,” Poses, a millennial himself, wrote. “I put them in charge of a project with a big and ambiguous scope, ask them to build something with a new technology, or even give them the responsibility of managing their first person.”
That doesn’t mean the burden falls entirely on managers’ shoulders. Wagener also told Business Insider that it’s important for employees to ask their managers for help in areas where they’re struggling.
“If you’re trying to put on a facade that everything is perfect to your manager,” Wagener said, “they’re not going to be in a position to, A, help you, or B, keep an eye out for things that could be a barrier for you.”
The ideal result of embracing weaknesses is twofold. For one, employees can address their flaws and boost their performance. Less obviously, employees may realise that career progression doesn’t necessarily mean “moving upward,” Wagener said. It may mean tackling parts of your job you haven’t yet approached and seizing “other opportunities that maybe weren’t completely vertical from where you’re sitting.”
Author: Shana Lebowitz