The Career Development Habit

Guest Post by Julie Winkle Giulioni

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”


A lot is written on the subject of habits. Habits associated with health and wellness. Habits associated with mental outlook and happiness. And habits associated with greater professional success. Habits really are at the core of excellence in any arena – including career development.

For too long, career development has been treated as an event, something that happens episodically, generally on an annual basis. It’s a formal line in the sand and opportunity to connect and contract around how to help others grow. It has tended to be highly regulated and dictated, with a focus on the paperwork and processes versus the person on the other side of the desk.

Imagine if you exercised only once each year. Or meditated annually rather than daily. Positive habits could never be built. And because the same holds true for career development, many leaders are missing an opportunity to powerfully help people (and their organizations) grow.

Authentic, sustainable, engaging development isn’t a one-and-done yearly event. It’s a daily habit of effective leaders. And it’s as simple as engaging in ongoing, growth-promoting dialogue. Those who’ve mastered it know that the career development habit boils down to watching for cues to intervene with a question.

Too frequently, people believe that career development needs to be punctuated with meetings, moves, promotions, and other formal and seemingly consequential events. But the truth is that leaders who’ve built up the career development habit do nothing more than mine the most mundane of circumstances for an excuse to demonstrate interest, probe a bit further, encourage reflection and spark insights.

Meaningful career development comes down to cultivating the habit of engaging in ongoing career conversations with others. And the tool for building that habit is questions.

When was the last time you asked your employees…

  • What’s most interesting about what you’re doing these days?
  • How must our work change to better respond to customer and/or marketplace needs?
  • What kinds of problems to do want to be solving?
  • What do you want to learn or experience?

Simple questions offer profound insights and development opportunities… but only to leaders who have internalized the career development habit.  Want to become one of these leaders? The first step is to arm yourself with questions and then practice asking them. Leaders are always surprised by just how quickly their career dialogue cadence grows once they have a solid repository of questions upon which to draw.

The 2nd edition of Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Organizations Need and Employees Want offers strategies and questions to get the dialogue going.

And now, an all-new Help Them Grow Card Deck is available. It includes 40+ questions as well as 7 different activities to help leaders build the career development habit.  This is a powerful way to support your employees, your organization and yourself.

Julie Winkle Giulioni


Julie Winkle Giulioni helps organizations enhance learning, engagement, retention, and the bottom line. Julie specializes in enterprise-wide learning experiences and custom training. Named one of Inc. Magazine’s top 100 speakers, Julie has traveled from Russia to China to Lithuania and beyond helping leaders around the world help others grow. She’s a sought-after speaker for consistently delivering creative insights as well as practical takeaways that change behavior. You can connect with her @


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