I have many clients come to me as they are stuck; they feel their career progression has halted. Typically, they are people that have achieved a lot in their career to date and are in a good role but they are now struggling to grapple with why they aren’t still moving forwards. As you can imagine, this situation is often, although not always, related to the relationship with the boss or the people above him/her.

To read about four areas to focus on to progress your career, click here.

When the lack of progression is related to the boss, there are three main reasons that I see from the work I do. Firstly, pure politics, the boss has other aims and objectives and that person’s progression is not a primary focus. Secondly, it is that my client has a different personality to that of the boss and the boss is keen on those that are most similar to him/her. Thirdly, it’s that there are specific areas of development that my client needs to work on.

It’s this third reason that I want to focus on in this article. I have had a number of clients come to me and say that their boss has given them some feedback. However, when we actually look at the feedback which has been given, it has been ambiguous and really non-specific.

One client comes to mind he was simply told “you need to increase your presence”. Now there are some assumptions we could make about what that boss meant. However, unless we have some very specific examples and a clear understanding of what him/her means, we could end up focusing on the wrong things. Whilst part of my role is to give my feedback to the person as well, fundamentally, if we don’t tackle the development areas that the boss has identified, it is going to be very challenging for that person to progress.

So my point today is to make sure that whenever you get any feedback that you make sure you are really clear on exactly what that person is saying or the situation it applies to. The boss’s presence comment could be general, but equally it could be specific to a certain situation, such as presenting where that person appears to lose confidence and not have the presence they need to; yet their presence may be fine in a day-to-day meeting. Hence, we need to know exactly what needs to be focused on.

I have another client and there are several things he wants to work on to improve his career progression and to do a better job where he is now. Being able to develop in the areas which matter to his boss are going to be an important focus for us, to support his career objectives. Doing this doesn’t mean becoming someone he’s not or doing things he disagrees with, but having an awareness of the specific things he needs to focus on and taking action. For example, his boss has said he needs to be “more of a leader”. We could all find numerous articles which talk about the important aspects of leadership. However, what does his boss really mean by this? So my first challenge to my client is to ask for specifics.

My message to you would be the same, when someone makes a development comment, if it is any way unclear or ambiguous, then ask for more clarity. If possible, ask for an example, what action/behaviour have they witnessed that illustrates their point? It’s not about challenging them but having clarity for yourself, so you know where to start. It will make all the difference to your career progression.

To read about preparing for your appraisal, click here.

If you lead people, make sure you are giving them feedback they can act on. Otherwise, time and effort can be wasted on the wrong things and everyone can end up frustrated.

If you are feeling stuck in your career and want to think more about your career progression, even if you don’t know why, contact me for a no obligation 30 minute call. If you’d like to see more about how I work with individuals click here.

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