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The non-managerial growth path

Arielle Gordis
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Workplace trends

Hybrid work arrangements may be messing with our brains

Feeling like you haven’t found your rhythm back at the office? There might be a scientific explanation. According to neurologists and behavioral scientists at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, the collective struggle to effectively work alongside one another back at the office actually makes sense. After years of remote work, our brains’ selective attention skills and ability to block out distractions have been weakened, and a number of workers today lack the muscle memory in their minds required to get jobs done in an open-office setting surrounded by significant background noise. Many workers now see the office as a place to collaborate, but not a place to get productive individual work done. Unfortunately for those who prefer to work from home, some of the UCLA scientists say the best way to strengthen these muscles is to come to the office more often.

The Chinese economy has taken a major hit

In July, Chinese exports fell 14.5% and imports were down 12.4% compared to a year ago, which is far below analyst forecasts. Experts explain that this is the latest sign of China’s difficult post-pandemic recovery, which has been slowed by weak consumer spending and high youth unemployment. In fact, China’s unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds in urban areas hit a record 21.3% in June, and the numbers for July are expected to be even higher. Graduating classes are being told not to aim high or be picky about work because opportunities are fleeting. China’s youth unemployment rate has doubled in the last four years, which experts explain is the result of more regulatory crackdowns on popular fields among youth (like online education, technology, and real estate) and Beijing’s “zero Covid” measures leaving companies wary of hiring.

The AI corner

AI’s increasing the pay gap between CEOs and employees

While the gulf between a CEO’s paycheck and their average employee’s earnings has always been vast, the advent of artificial intelligence is already threatening to exacerbate the gap by benefiting executives significantly more than their employees, according to a new AFL-CIO report. CEOs are rushing to incorporate AI into their businesses without protections for workers or concern about replacing their human capital. Last year, the average S&P 500 CEO compensation, which is structured to ensure the boss gets rich only if the company does too, was $16.7 million – meaning these CEOs earn more than 250x the average employee. And with AI investments on the rise, and many lower-level jobs expected to be minimized or replaced, experts warn that this gap will likely continue to grow.

The music industry is trying to capitalize on AI

The rise of generative AI has bred a surge in “deepfake” songs that can convincingly mimic the voices, lyrics, and sounds of famous artists, often without their consent. As the music industry grapples with the implications of these new creative possibilities, Google and Universal Music are in talks to license artists’ melodies and voices for songs generated by AI in an effort to monetize the threat. According to insiders, while nothing has yet been released, the goal of this partnership is to develop a tool for fans to create AI-generated tracks legitimately – with artists having the choice to opt in – and pay the owners of the copyrights for it. Sources say Warner Music, the third-largest music label, has also been in talks with Google about a similar product.

The non-managerial growth path


Management has long been seen as a necessary step of upward progression in a person’s career. People get promoted to managerial positions because they are good at what they do – as individual contributors. However, with 70% of the variance in team engagement determined by the manager and half of surveyed workers having left their jobs to get away from their managers, per Gallup research, it’s clear that managers can profoundly influence employee experience and retention and that not everyone is meant to be one.

Top performers of course deserve to be recognized for their work and afforded meaningful opportunities to grow and develop, but being great at what you do doesn’t mean you’re great at making others better, which is a key part of being an effective manager. In fact, managerial talent requires very different skills than the ones that may have propelled them to excellence as individual performers, such as a real desire to make those around you better, patience, self-awareness, resilience, and the ability to empower others.

As many companies today continue to place a greater emphasis on maximizing resources and retaining top talent, it’s necessary to consider the right growth paths for your team members. Who is meant to become a manager, and who would be best off growing as an independent contributor? When employees come to you about a desire to become a manager, it’s actually helpful to push back a bit and get them to understand the why. Is it because that’s just what they’ve always assumed growth looks like, or do they actually have a deep passion for leading others?

“Your team does not work for you, you work for your team. You help them reach their goals. All the credit goes to them, all the blame goes to you.”

This is what Jason Miller, a beloved Senior Director at, always tells his team members who are considering a managerial growth path to help them understand exactly what it takes to be an effective manager. It’s important to emphasize that as a manager, you need to put your team members first and hold yourself accountable for their missteps.

For those who choose not to take this path, the good news is there’s another option: growing as an independent contributor (IC) – a professional who contributes to an organization independently, helping to support its goals and mission, without holding management responsibilities. This path enables employees to create a future for themselves at your organization without overseeing others. When what your team members love most about their work is the work itself, this path, which enables them to continue executing and growing these skills, is often ideal for many top performers.

So, how do you build an effective growth path for independent contributors?

Consider how to make it meaningful

While managerial paths have existed for as long as any of us can remember, the independent contributor path is still fairly new. That’s why it’s so important to invest time and energy into building a meaningful and fulfilling growth roadmap for these top performers as well. From new KPIs to increased responsibilities and evolving reporting structures, think about what makes a growth path rewarding and outline real milestones that ICs on your team could reach in order to help them picture a real future on the team and stay motivated.

Provide regular feedback

From highlighting what’s working to addressing opportunities to improve, giving frequent and thoughtful feedback is one of the most greatest ways to help team members grow. That’s why it’s so important to provide your ICs with regular constructive and actionable feedback and coaching. This will help them identify their strengths and weaknesses, and give them the tools they need to succeed in their career journeys.

Identify opportunities to learn

In order to continue feeling like they’re improving and developing their skill sets, it’s essential that you give your ICs the opportunity to learn and develop. More than three-quarters of employees (76%) say they are more likely to stay with a company that offers continuous training, according to Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM.) So, work with your ICs to identify areas for them to improve, find experienced team members to offer advice and guidance, invest in their training and development, and seek out opportunities to take them out of their comfort zones to really master their desired skills.

Celebrate success

It’s extremely important to recognize the achievements of your ICs in order to make these team members feel valued and convey a sense of job mastery. 80% of employees would work harder if they felt better appreciated, according to a Zippa report, and employees who are recognized are almost 6x more likely to stay at their jobs than those who aren’t, per to a recent Divvy Engagement report. So make sure to reach out to your ICs when they do something great and spotlight their successes in larger forums whenever possible to make them feel seen and appreciated.

Provide leadership opportunities

Remember that even if ICs aren’t on a managerial path, they can still take on leadership roles and responsibilities in other ways. Find opportunities for your ICs to lead projects, oversee strategies, play a role in high-level decision making, perhaps represent the team at external events or conferences, and even mentor relevant team members if that would interest them.

Ensure fairness

When employees get promoted to managerial positions, their salaries and benefits typically get adjusted, so the same must hold true for independent contributors as well. As they gain more responsibility and authority over time, make sure they receive a compensation package that matches that growth. For example, a professional lead should receive comparable compensation to their team lead equivalents when the impact they bring to the organization is similar.

Water cooler chatter

WhatsApp is introducing screen sharing during video calls as its latest feature to enhance its video-calling experience. The screen-sharing feature has started rolling out on Android, iOS, and Windows Desktop in a phased manner, so if you don’t see it yet, you should soon.

“Whether sharing documents for work, browsing photos with family, planning a vacation, shopping online with friends, or just helping parents with tech support – sharing the screen lets you share a live view of your screen during the call”

Taylor Swift gave her ~50 Eras Tour truckers $100,000 bonuses after 24 weeks on the road with her. The typical end-of-tour bonuses for handling transportation of the stage and structure is around $5,000 to $10,000, so this far exceeded their expectations.

“Taylor insisted on writing a handwritten note to each driver and [added] a wax seal on the envelope with her monogram.”
Michael Scherkenbach, Founder and CEO of Denver, Colorado-based Shomotion trucking company

Question of the week

Last week’s answer: 100 to 120

This week’s question: What’s the most popular consumer good in history?

Just for laughs

The nonmanagerial growth path
Arielle is a writer and storyteller currently serving as a content marketing manager at When she’s not busy writing, you can find her walking outside for hours on end or planning her next travel adventure.

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