Following Your Passion–How Much Should A Boss Be Expected to Help? Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

I have a direct report who is diligent and dependable. She is pleasant around the company and everybody likes and respects her. The problem is that she regularly brings up her desire to move to a job in a different department. She says that’s where her passion is.  

I have spoken to the VP of that department and although my employee has a fine reputation, there is no evidence she has any skills in that particular area.  I have suggested to her that she get her feet wet by participating on cross-departmental planning committees so that others in that department can see how talented she is, but she demurs and says she is too busy. How can I help her?  —Wants to Help 

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Dear Wants,

It’s great that you are willing to help your people think about their future and that you encourage them to follow their passion.  You have already done a lot.  It’s hard to tell from your question whether your employee does have the experience and talent to make a move—but even if she does, it doesn’t help her cause that she refuses to take the first step toward her supposed goal.

Here’s what you might do now:

  • Tell her how critical it is for her to be recognized for what she loves by volunteering to help whenever possible in cross-departmental activities. Emphasize that, if she’s really serious, she needs to find a way to make a splash internally so the VP of that department will notice her. Remind her that everybody is busy, and that getting the job you want sometimes means you have to start doing it in addition to your regular job.
  • Ask her how she would like you to help her. She may have some really good ideas but may feel shy to share them. Encourage brainstorming on the topic so it isn’t all on you. Ask her to consider other ways she might develop and demonstrate new skills. People are much more likely to be excited by ideas that they come up with themselves.
  • Ask what might be getting in the way of her taking the leap to pursue her passion and what she might be able to do to move past the obstacles.

A lot of people talk a big game, but a goal without an action plan and a deadline is a dream.  It is fine and well to have a passion, but if she wants to set a real goal, she needs to put her money where her mouth is and get on with it.

She is lucky to have you as a manager.

About the author

Madeleine Blanchard

Madeleine Homan-Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

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