Throughout my 21-year career at American Express, I have been fortunate to have a number of leaders who showed an interest in me and my professional development. Thus, one of my goals as a senior leader is to make sure each and every employee I lead has an actionable development plan, and that I help keep their plan front and center.
I’ve also found, over the years, that development means many different things for different people. The one common thread is that developing future leaders is something that everyone owns, regardless of level at any organization. It’s up to leaders to recognize talent and help employees seize opportunities to build on their strengths as well as their weaknesses.
I’ve always felt I own my development. I’ve been very open with all of my leaders about what I’ve wanted to achieve. Having those conversations and developing clear expectations has always helped me be successful. Every new position I’ve achieved at American Express has been because of open conversation and because I was up front about what I wanted out of my development.
But owning development also means listening. I recently heard from one of our employees that she had no desire to advance her career to a leadership level. However, she is an excellent peer mentor, and she felt she had a lot to offer, and a lot to learn from others. For her, development is taking on new challenges and learning new areas. She was looking to make a lateral career move so she could learn more about another area of the business. I admire her for knowing what she wants and going after it. Development is a broad term, but individuals and leaders should look at it from one common viewpoint – development is not something to do once in a while, but to think about and take action on every single day.
If I had not had incredible leaders who worked with me on my development plan, I would not be in my senior position at a top company today. While I owe my leaders a lot, I’m proud that I’ve owned my development and always made it a priority to make it known what I wanted, and reached out proactively to make it happen.