Promotions Are So Yesterday with Julie Winkle Giulioni

Reading Time: 18 Minutes

In this interview, Julie Winkle Giulioni shares what is multidimensional career framework.

After the Interview:

About Julie Winkle Giulioni

Julie is a champion for workplace growth and development and helps executives and leaders optimize talent and potential within their organizations. She is a speaker and co-author of the international bestseller, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go. Her latest book, Promotions Are So Yesterday: Redefine Career Development Help Employees Thrive, will be released by ATD Press in March 2022.

Read the Transcript

Who is Julie Winkle Guilioni?

Allison: Welcome back to the Deliberate Leaders podcast. I am your host and executive coach, Allison Dunn. I am super excited to have our guest back in the studio with us for a second time.

Today we have joining us Julie Winkle Guilioni. She is a champion for workplace growth and development and helps executives and leaders optimize talent and potential within their organizations. She is a speaker, a co-author of the book, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go. Her latest book is Promotions Are So Yesterday, and that is due to be released early this spring. Julie, thank you so much for joining us here today.

Julie: Oh, my goodness. Thank you for having me back. I’ve been looking forward to this.

#1 Leadership Tip

Allison: Me too. I love it when we have returning guests, because we build on the conversation. I’m sure that I asked you this question last time, but I always like to just see if there’s a new tip. So, what would be your number one leadership tip for our listeners?

Julie: Oh gosh, it is so fundamental and yet so powerful – talk less, listen more! At the end of the day, if leaders just walked away, talking less and listening more, asking good questions, giving people the floor, giving folks the space to think and reflect and to come up with their own ideas and to own solutions, to build relationships. Every day we pick up the news and there’s more about the great resignation.

I really, really believe that if leaders just talked less and listened more, we would be in a different place.

Allison: Yeah, I think that listening to people is one of the most amazing gifts that we can give, and I think as leaders, I think we fall into this habit of, if we’re not speaking, then we’re not leading somehow, and that’s just not true.

Julie: It’s true. You know, you’re so right. I think a lot of us grow up through the ranks and we really do believe that the value that we add as a leader is the content, when really the value is being the container for others to create the content and move it all forward. And then there’s just the fundamental busyness that we all have, and it feels more efficient from a time standpoint to just lay it out there and tell it and move on to the next. And yet, good leaders know that you pay now or you pay later. You might invest a little more now, but then you’ve got the ownership, the execution and things just roll out more smoothly.

New Book Promotions Are So Yesterday

Allison: Fantastic. Thank you very much for that tip. That’s a great one. So the new book Promotions Are So Yesterday. Please tell me more.

Julie: Well, thank you for asking. The last time I was on, we talked about my first book, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go, which I’ve had so much fun with over the last 10 years and two editions. And as I’ve been out working with leaders, helping them understand the value of career conversations, many leaders and managers have taken it in. They’ve raised their game, but still, they are saying, “yeah but … I can have these good conversations. I have some skills, I have great questions and a methodology now, but at the end of the day, if my people are still just wanting promotions and that next move and that next position and I don’t have that to offer them, what’s the point?” And so, a lot of managers, despite learning some skills and even being sold on the whole idea, they still have been reluctant to jump in with both feet because of these assumptions about what people want.

What I’ve found over these last 10 years of field research and talking to hundreds, thousands of individuals is careers are much bigger than that. Careers, aren’t just about that next position or the move or the promotion or the title.

When I talk to people about what careers mean to them, the conversation gets deep, really fast. They talk about wanting to make a difference and connect with other human beings and feel good at something, feel accomplished, and like they’ve mastering something and have flexibility and choice and control and ease and meaning.

I mean, there’s so much more that people are looking for. They’re looking for their jobs, to the kind of jobs they want their jobs to do for them, and yet managers not being aware of that don’t have the language or the confidence to delve into those conversations.

 So, I just really felt like it was time to put together a framework that would help managers understand the broader definition of careers, and give them some alternatives that are more doable, more available to them. Whereas promotions are sort of periodic, what can they do with people day in and day out to help make sure people are growing and feeling engaged, they’re really thriving in their work?

How to Develop a Career Path

Allison: I appreciate that. There’s a couple of points you’ve just brought up. The fact that if you don’t have an area to promote someone to, it’s not like the next title or whatnot, then how do you show them a career path in some way? So if promotions were so yesterday, how does someone show that they have career potential and career development within a company? Let’s talk that through.

Julie: Yeah, and that really is the fundamental question. In the past, we have defined career development in terms of the path toward that next position, whatever it might be. And unfortunately, in today’s environment, that next position might not be there by the time we get there. The Institute for the Future of Work has done that 85% of the jobs we’ll be doing in 2030 haven’t been invented yet. So the whole idea of career paths in many cases is a little off.

 The other thing is, I was reflecting on my very first business trip as a young professional, and I remember we went to Paris, and I was so excited about seeing all the landmarks – the Champs-Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower – and I’ve got lots of pictures of those in the photo album. But when I think back on that trip, what I really remember Allison is the stuff in between. I wore out a pair of shoes, because I didn’t want to get on the Metro and miss anything. Learning French toasts. There was this one elderly woman in a shop who wrapped up the soap so beautifully that it is still wrapped up 20 years later. it’s the stuff that was in between that really made a difference, that was meaningful. And I really see career development in much the same way.

We are so attached to these landmarks – the promotions, the titles – and yet what people really care about is what’s in between and beyond, and that’s where the learning and the growth and the meaning is made.

 And so for leaders, the way we sort of pivot is through a re-imagination of, or an expanded definition of what careers are and what career development looks like. The good news is I’ve done some research and there are actually 7 broad dimensions beyond that climb up the corporate ladder that really mean a lot to people and are ways to help them grow and remain engaged.

 7 Broad Dimensions Beyond Climbing the Corporate Ladder

Allison: Are you willing to share what those 7 areas are?

Julie: Yes! Thank you for asking. There’s the climb up the corporate ladder, the growth through promotions. That’s always going to be a thing. And while I say it’s so yesterday, it’s a little cheeky. It’s still on the table. There are times over the course of our working lives where that is the right focus for our growth.

Allison: Absolutely. But it’s out of our control. And so, what else is available within our control?

Julie: The other 7 dimensions are contribution.

People want to step up. They want to step in, they want to make a difference. They want to live on purpose. They want to be of service, and that’s a huge opportunity to tap greater engagement and give people opportunities for really powerful growth.

Second dimension is competence. I think most folks in the workforce today really understand that if we are not committed to lifelong learning, we could be in trouble. We need to be future proofing our careers on a regular basis. And so that means building capacity, expanding our skills, really staying current so we can function well today, but also in future opportunities.

 A third dimension is connection and that’s just so profound, especially these days, given how we’ve been scattered to the wind and have so much remote and hybrid work.

People really feel a need to cultivate community, cultivate their networks, cultivate really meaningful human relationships. There is tremendous growth that comes from that kind of focus on connection.

Another is confidence and it’s an interesting one that we normally I don’t think would associate with career development, but I know for myself, there are points in my career where clearly the most important thing for me to do is to double down on building that sense of assuredness that I’ve got this. My performance is going to be predictable, and so confidence building is a huge opportunity in terms of career development. And of course, the lack of confidence can certainly put a real ceiling on your career opportunities.

 There are 3 more – challenge, which is frequently associated with career development by really helping people figure out what’s that right stretch that’s going to teach them what they need to know, that’s going to give them that sense of achievement and push the limits of their capacity.

There’s contentment – again, kind of a new entry to the field of career development. But there are times in all of our careers where the best step forward is to take a step back.

When you think about how long we are all going to be working, we have to sustain our energy and our enthusiasm and ourselves.

And so there are times when we have to double down on contentment. How can we find ease and meaning and balance so we can be there for the long haul?

 Then there’s choice, and that one has certainly become a hot topic these days. That whole autonomy, volition, flexibility that people are looking for, and the ability to increase your authority maybe, have more decision-making capacity, which is instructive. We learn a lot from the decisions we make and the outcomes of those decisions. And so then there’s also the climb up the corporate ladder as well. That comes into play. So those are the 8 dimensions altogether, 7 of which are unique in that they are completely within the purview and the control of managers and employees, whereas the promotions sort of live over here and are doled out on a different basis.

Allison: You’ve chosen a selection of very powerful words that represent each of the 7 dimensions that we can control. In your research, have you found that people are in one dimension only, or do they need multiple dimensions to be happening at the same time to help fulfill that promotion trigger that we all want?

Julie: Or that alternative.

Allison: Right.

Framework for Managers

Julie: You know, what’s interesting is, as we look at the research, folks tend to gravitate toward one of the dimensions that they’re most interested in. And then they have some backups that kind of fall down, and then they have a group down at the bottom that just is don’t bother me with this right now. What’s interesting about that is if we can take those few at the top, it gives the employee and the manager a lot of room to maneuver because the truth is at any given time in an organization, some of these dimensions are going to be more or less available to folks. There might be business pressures that make impossible to layer on a new challenge, for instance, if that was someone’s top choice. But if their second highest, most interesting dimension is say, connection, then we could go into that and find ways how can we make more of that happen for them until the challenge opportunity is there.

What I think the framework gives managers is a little pool of data to work with, and some options that they can maneuver around based upon the business needs, because the reality is, development doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

It’s not one-sided employee only. It has to also support the needs of the business, and so how do we meld these at any given time? I should probably say too, they’re going to change over time.

I think about my own experience. There was a time when confidence was absolutely … when my first book came out, I should have felt on top of the world and my confidence just tanked while I kind of figured out my new role and what I could do and how this was going to work for me, and once I got that down, then I was ready to move on to the next challenge. So it’s going to change for us too, over time.

Allison: In the framework you’ve outlined, I think it’s a great discussion structure to create with each individual – I’m going to say employee – whoever’s on your team. What’s the process that you would suggest someone if they’re going to incorporate all of these dimensions? How do you start? What do you do?

Process for Incorporating These Dimensions

Julie: So, as a manager, it kind of hearkens back to what I was saying when you asked about the tip – talk less, listen more – sort of thing.

As a manager, the key really is to set the table for a conversation that allows you to learn as much as possible about what’s most interesting to the employee. Because the more the manager understands, the more fodder they have for making those matches in the workplace, and finding those ways to connect a need that the individual has with a need that the business has to be able to make it a real win-win.

 The first step would be that learning kind of intake process, if you will. We developed a self-assessment that’s in the book, just a paper based one, but we’ve also digitized it and have a free version of it on the website. A manager who is interested could send his employees or her employees to that site to complete the assessment. It takes about 15 minutes and the output is a confidential report that’s emailed to the employee only, that gives them an overview of all of the dimensions and sort of why promotions or so yesterday. Kind of helps the manager with that sales job a little bit, but then it shows them a bar chart of how their dimensions line up there in terms of their interest and dives into that one dimension of interest with some additional thoughts, ideas, perspective, and gives folks a set of reflection questions so they can walk away and start thinking about this.

Have the Conversation

 So if an employee or the person on someone’s team completed that and then was willing to bring that to the conversation, can you even imagine the richness that comes from that, and the manager has that basis for beginning to prioritize what’s most interesting, map it with what’s going to be most available, set a goal, a real development goal for the folks so that it’s not just more work, that it really is a development assignment and then execute on a plan.

Allison: Okay. Does your book outline examples of how someone could find how to handle contentment as a dimension? How to handle confidence as a dimension? Now I need to figure out how to structure challenge makes sense to me, but there may be others that may be more challenging when you’re the manager trying to now fulfill that.

Julie: Even challenge that seems kind of simple, most managers haven’t thought that through beyond a stretch assignment or special project. We just don’t have a lot of these organic development experiences at our fingertips. The book is set up more as a workbook or a guide, a playbook almost.

Use the Book As a Workbook

Each of the chapters digs into one of these dimensions in details. Talks a little bit about why it’s important, the context, but the lion share of it is specific tools, strategies, templates, worksheets that you can sit down and use with an employee to help move it along. People ask, how should I read the book? I kind of think of it as just staying one chapter ahead of your next employee’s interests. If you just read that chapter, if you knew that Allison was really interested in contribution, then read that chapter the night before and bring it. You’ve got a toolkit to work with.

Allison: Julie, how often should the concept of this career development in dimensions when there isn’t necessarily a career claiming opportunity? How often do you have these conversations all the time?

Julie: All the time.

Allison: All the time.

Julie: Yes. When I think about other things that are so yesterday, one of them is that annual career development conversation that we all grew up or many of us grew up with. And that is so yesterday as well, the idea that even twice a year, you think about how much the world has changed in the last six months, and it’s a pity when development isn’t allowed to keep up with that changing pace of need in the business and whatnot.

My recommendation really is that managers find a way to incorporate a thread of development in every single conversation they have.

Every one on one should speak to development. How are your plans going? Are they still relevant? What are you interested in today? Where do we want to think about tomorrow in terms of shifting activities that are really going to keep you engaged and growing in the direction that you want?

Guiding Your People

Allison: Can I ask you, I guess it’s a specific example. How do you guide people along so that you don’t leave your team member that you’re trying to nurture confused about what it is they’re supposed to focus on?

Julie: Oh, that is such a great question and such a pervasive challenge in many organizations. From my perspective, all of that boils down to the fundamental problem that we have in the workplace and in the world in general is this focus on what people want to be versus what they want to do. And if we keep focusing on what they want to be – the role, the position, that kind of thing – that’s where the confusion lies.

Because are you asking me to be the vice president? What’s it going to take to be the vice president? If I check all these boxes, can you guarantee me I’m going to be the vice president? And the answer of course is no. And will that vice president role even be there in two years when I have the skillset for it?

The managers that I see who are most successful in terms of development conversations are shifting from the where do you see yourself in three to five years? What do you want to be when you grow up? What seat do you want to sit in? What role do you want to have? They are talking more about, what do you want to do? What does success really look and feel like to you? What’s the nature of the work? Who do you want to work with? What customers, what products, what materials, depending upon the business? What do you want to learn?

And when we start going in that direction, then we’re building a more multidimensional approach to what the career is. And when and if that vice president role presents itself, we can evaluate the extent to which someone is ready for it, but even those pathways anymore, they really feel like promises to people.

Allison: Seriously. Yeah.

Julie: It’s confusing. It leaves people a little befuddled.

Research for the Book

Allison: I’m super intrigued. Could you just tell us a little bit about the research that you’ve done and how this has impacted this particular book?

Julie: The field research was really the last 10 years., Every keynote, workshop, meeting. Everywhere I went, everyone I saw the question was what does career mean to you? And those data points over time started mapping to these dimensions. I knew when I put the model together, I knew that it was a viable model and that these dimensions were interesting to folks. The question was how interesting when they were really laid out against that traditional measuring stick of career success, which is the promotion. We did a research study, a global validation study – 750 folks – and we kept it pretty simple. We had lots of different dimensions, but this part of it, we kept it pretty simple. We just defined each of these dimensions with one sentence and asked people to rank them from 1 to 8, which are most interesting to you right now.

 I kind of held my breath and waited for the data to come back and was beyond blown away because, Allison, in aggregate, all of the other 7 dimensions are more interesting to people than climbing the corporate ladder. When we expand the menu beyond just a hamburger, people are ordering up the other stuff. They just, again, haven’t had the language for talking and thinking about this. There was one group, the 20-somethings where choice was their least interesting dimension, and the climb was second least interesting. It kind of makes sense that maybe earlier entrance to the workforce don’t feel the need for the same level of validation and autonomy and whatnot. They’re kind of getting their bearings.

But in aggregate, when we looked at the gestalt, climb was dead last and it was contribution and competence that were 1 and 2.

People are most interested in learning and finding ways to contribute, and is there a more hopeful message for managers everywhere than that?

Is Climbing the Corporate Ladder Still Relevant?

Allison: Most definitely. So, in saying that, I’m curious. Won’t people still want to climb, and 2) is it more relevant for certain generations, just in general?

Julie: I think across the board, regardless of our age, we’re all going to want to, at some point climb the corporate ladder. I think it may take a while of reconditioning several generations of us to expand this definition so that the climb isn’t the end all and be all, so it may take us a while to get there, but people are absolutely going to want the climb and we need to be prepared to support them.

The beauty of this model is that those other 7 dimensions are tools that we can leverage to help those folks who want to climb and there’s nowhere to climb to. So frequently right now, I want to be that vice president. It’s not there. Okay, I’m just going to sit on my hands and I’ll wait till old Mr. Whomever dies.

 Those other 7 dimensions give a leader a framework for saying, okay, got it. You want that role? Let’s evaluate it. What’s it going to take for you to be really ready to hit the ground running there? How could we perhaps look at you expanding your contribution, and perhaps getting some more visibility while you’re building some skills. Or maybe you need to broaden your network and that’s what’s going to give you the support that you’ll need to ultimately make that move.

So it’s about deploying what you’ve got control over against what you don’t have control over and in the process, maintaining someone’s enthusiasm and positivity and kind of forward momentum despite the fact that they’re not making that leap to the next landmark to go back to my travel analogy.

Allison: I think empowering the individual and the manager to do things that they can control is a gigantic influence for having the success of this. I love it. Have you found that certainly during these pandemic years, is the conversations different for managers in general with having remote staff? What trends are you seeing that we should be thinking about?

Conversations with Remote Staff

Julie: It’s interesting to see because total informal unscientific observations, it seems like managers are veering one direction or the other. Some managers are really struggling to keep a remote hybrid organization team together, and they’re going a little bit dark. They’re not communicating as much. Other managers have completely used this horrible set of circumstances for such good, and have learned the value of communication and messaging and bringing the team together and really creating a human connection.

The ones who are succeeding are the ones who are really beginning to master that, and their next challenge I think, has more to do with this whole issue of proximity bias. As we start thinking about institutionalizing more remote and hybrid work, managers are going to have to confront some feelings, some prejudices, some discrimination that might arise, because there might be different feelings about folks who are working at home versus those who are treading into the office every day. And so starting to grapple with that is sort of an emerging trend that I’m seeing organizations begin to look at.

Allison: That’s a very excellent observation. I know organizations that are grappling with that. There are some prejudices that are happening because of that difference. Any insights as to one or two things that we should be thinking about as we communicate and address and make decisions based on those prejudices?

Julie: I think the first one that most directly answers your question is we just have to raise awareness of proximity bias. A lot of managers aren’t even aware that this is going on in their heads, and so starting to have those conversations and create a safe space where managers and leaders can talk about what work looks like is people being here, and I need them there and I don’t feel comfortable and I’m not sure they really are doing the job. Having a safe space where leadership can process that, I think it’s the first step towards just getting it out on the table so we can look at it for what it’s worth and start dealing with it.

Tactically, as I’m working with organizations who are dealing with this, the tactical thing that seems to make the biggest difference is really looking at your meetings because meetings are the venue where your hybrid and your remote employees are showing up. That’s their only window to the team as a whole, and those meetings many times are just not as productive as they might be. We’re working with a lot of organizations right now to look at how can we elevate the quality of those meetings, and it’s not even any special hybrid strategies. It’s just good meeting management. Do you have an agenda that actually engages everyone? Do you have the kind of agenda that encourages the dialogue among the whole team and a mechanism for doing that?

Some organizations are going all remote. Even the people who are in an office co-located are dialing in from their individual computers, so that there’s an even playing field. What tactics can we do during that meeting, cause that’s really where it happens for those remote and hybrid employees, and how do we make sure that we’re giving them the visibility and the engagement that they need to ensure their success and the success of the team as a whole?

How to Get Promotions Are So Yesterday

Allison: All right. Outstanding tips. Thank you, Julie. I know that your book is due to be released. You implied that it’s at the press right now. Do you have an actual official rollout date?

Julie: We do. It will be released on March 8th, 2022 by ATD Press.

Allison: Fantastic. And where will people be able to get their copy?

Julie: They can buy it from whatever their favorite book seller is, and I know so many of us just click right on through to Amazon and pre-orders are available now.

Allison: I will make sure that I add the Amazon link once it actually is released out. In the meantime, I’ll put that to be released date, and that’s the cover. Love it! Julie, what is the best way for folks to follow or connect with you?

Julie: Thank you for asking. It’s probably my website, juliewinklegiulioni.com, and I would imagine you’ll put that in the show notes too, cause it’s a mouthful.

Allison: I absolutely will. Julie, it has been such a pleasure. Thank you for all of the research that you’ve done around this topic and developing a new framework for us to be able to have better career development conversations. Thank you.

Julie: Oh, thank you, Alison. It’s great catching up.

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