Leaders make more leaders. You aren’t a leader if you don’t. But how do you go about making more leaders? By acting as a career agent, you can successfully combat disengagement and serve the role that a leader is meant to serve- growing others.

But how do you play the role of career agent? Here are three easy steps:


1. ASK & ASSESS: Asking simply involves deploying the question, “What do you want out of your career?” in individual meetings with your subordinates. You may want to break this down into what they want 1 year, 3 years, 5 years and 10 years from now. This is a simple but powerful question that begins to frame how you can begin to act as a career agent by knowing first hand what outcomes a person is seeking.

Once you have asked this question, you need to assess where people are in their path to the outcomes they want. This includes an honest assessment on your part and on their part about their strengths and areas for development. You can do this in a casual way through one-on-one conversations, or deploy self-assessment and/or 360° evaluation tools.


2. GAME PLAN: The direction a person seeks and the results of the assessment phase then give you the opportunity to develop a game plan for maximizing that person towards their goals with the organization’s needs in mind. This game plan should accomplish three things:

  • Address areas of strength and weakness in assessment phase
  • Lead to more engagement from the employee
  • Meet business needs

The game plan should include both:

  • WORK ASSIGNMENTS: These assignments should contribute directly to what the organization needs and should be opportunities for growth for the person. For example, you may have a pressing business need to map out all of your organization’s processes to streamline and create efficiency. Utilizing someone on your team who has this strength OR has never done something like this before (depending on the situation is who you would assign) can help the organization meet the need and help the person grow a strength or develop in an uncharted area.
  • PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITIES: These activities are things that the person should take responsibility for accomplishing on their own time through their own initiative and effort. For example, it may be attending an accounting class, reading articles on certain topics, or taking on or pursuing a mentoring relationship.


3. EXPOSURE: The final step of the process actually involves following through on your end of the deal as a leader when the person follows through on their gameplan. As we described in a previous article on this topic in Alabama HR Magazine, beginning on page 14, make people aware of opportunities that arise, even if they are outside your organization.

This may mean letting them go to another organization. If you’re having career agent conversations with people, they are going to be more productive and you probably don’t want to loose this type of employee.

This may seem counter intuitive to an employee retention strategy, however, making employees aware of outside opportunities that are a fit for their career plans, and helping facilitate those opportunities even if they are outside your organization, is a good move in the long run.

They become walking and talking recruitment ads for you and your organization, which is hard to come by for free. It leads to a bigger picture recruitment and retention strategy. And who knows, their career path may lead them back to your organization more valuable than when they left.”


The leaders as career agent process can be one that replaces your performance evaluation/appraisal system if done correctly. Consider it as a new paradigm in how you evaluate, develop and grow people within your organization.

Help Leaders become Career Agents with a helpful tool found here.

Want to teach people to be career agents? Check out our Leaders as Career Agents course outline.

Mary Ila Ward

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