transform wellbeing

Transform wellbeing with professional development and career conversations

Steve Kimmens Career Wellbeing, leadership Leave a Comment

Conversations matter to transform the wellbeing of you and your people

Don’t waste the opportunities and power that professional development provides to transform wellbeing through conversation.

The modern workplace can leave us isolated, damaging our wellbeing. Connections at work matter, not just for us to perform at our best in our jobs, but also for the wellbeing of our life in general. Professional development and career conversations provide the opportunity to improve wellbeing by connecting us to our colleagues through conversations that matter.

Unfortunately, professional and career development is often framed as an individual activity, not to be shared with colleagues. Not only that, we get stuck in a deficit trap of negative feedback conversations that stop us building trust and enjoyment with professional development.


Here’s three ways you can change professional development conversations to transform the wellbeing of you and your team:

  1. Make professional development a team sport with a 10-15 minute monthly huddle,
  2. focus on strengths, rather than getting stuck trying to develop weaknesses, and
  3. recognise the great work around you as often as you can (don’t wait for team meetings).


The research tells us that isolation is terrible for our health

Social isolation impactSocial isolation is bad for our physical, mental and emotional health. Isolation leads to increases in blood pressure, anxiety increases and rates of depression increase.

Work is no different. If we want a high performing team, we need a team that’s connected.
Professional development and career conversations provide the pathway to connection. They open the door to real conversations that are often shied away from in the workplace.





Career conversations compound impact

Professional development and career conversations are so powerful because they connect people in the workplace, improving their wellbeing, and by helping them to get more from their role – put simply, enjoy their job – compounding the impact.


“People with high Career Wellbeing are more than twice as likely to be thriving in their lives overall.”

Wellbeing: The 5 essential elements, Gallup, Tom Rath and Jim Harter


Think about your experience

When you’ve been in a job you don’t enjoy, how has that has impacted the rest of your life?


If we’re having conversations at work that help us to play to our strengths, and recognise the work that we’re doing, we are going to be encouraged and motivated. We will be enjoying our job and that will have impacts across every aspect of our lives.


3 ways to use the power of professional development and career conversations to improve wellbeing

1. Make professional development a team sport

Individual development plans isolate us and give us time frames that demotivate. Take a different approach with professional development as a team sport on a monthly rhythm.

  • Each month have a team huddle.
  • Spend 10-15 minutes in the huddle.
  • Each team member chooses one strength they are going to work on.
  • Identifying a specific activity they are going to complete that will help them take a step forward and get a bit better.

The trick is to avoid a long drawn out discussion and avoid team members listing lots of different activities they will undertake. One is more than enough.

Example: Katherine is a fantastic presenter, she wants to get even better, she identifies her next step is to join the organisation’s toastmasters group and go to a session this month.


2. Focus on strengths, rather than trying to develop weaknesses

You may have noticed that the monthly team huddle focuses on strengths. There’s a reason for that. All too often development becomes about identifying perceived weaknesses and attempting to work on them. Focusing on strengths is a more effective strategy – it builds our confidence.


“Great managers… know that their job is not to arm each employee with a dispassionately accurate understanding of the limits of her strengths and the liabilities of her weaknesses but to reinforce her self-assurance. That’s why great managers focus on strengths.”

What Great Managers Do, Marcus Buckingham, Harvard Business Review March 2005


Conversations about our weaknesses can be demotivating for leaders and their people and stop the habit of professional development conversations in its tracks. These deficit conversations get us stuck in the mindset of what we’re not good at.

Not only that, negative conversations are a difficult place to build trust from and are often the conversations people avoid. Focus on strengths and have more conversations!

Example: Katherine has identified that presentation is a strength of hers. Alisha, her people leader, hears about an opportunity to MC the next all staff meeting. She reminds Katherine of her strengths and suggests that she puts herself forward. It’s a great opportunity to demonstrate her strength to other teams and is a chance to practice her skills in a slightly different setting.


3. Recognise (and praise) the great work around you

Seeking strengths can be applied in unstructured settings. Catching the people around you (whether you’re their boss or not) doing great work, and recognising them for it provides a great opportunity to shift mindsets and build relationships.


“Project teams with encouraging managers performed 31 percent better than teams whose managers were less positive and less open with praise.”

The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor


The trick is to deliver this feedback as quickly as possible and describe the behaviour and outcome as clearly as possible.

Example: Li is looking through recently completed client proposals for inspiration for a new proposal. He notices that Dara, his colleague, has recently completed a proposal which clearly articulates the client need and is structured in a way that links those needs to the solutions clearly. Rather than just mentally noting this or waiting until next week’s team meeting, Li picks up the phone to congratulate Dara for her excellent work. He provides specific feedback about her work and what difference that would make for the client.


Start today – transform wellbeing through conversations that matter

Have a conversation that matters – talk to your team about professional and career development, focus on strengths and shift to a regular rhythm of identifying and recognising progress.

You don’t need anyone’s help to do this. You can have a direct impact on the Career Wellbeing of the people around you and compound that across their lives.

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