Oh boy, are you going to be mad at me when you’re done reading this. Reader be kind, and understand that sometimes the best advice may not make your top ten choice for best lyrics and the rhythm may be hard to dance to, but it is destined nonetheless to replay in your head ceaselessly (kinda like “Mandy” by Barry Manilow – you want it to leave, and it stays and stays and stays…). I hope today, I am your “Mandy”….
I began leading a five part training program yesterday, working with new managers and supervisors on the fundamentals of their jobs now that they are responsible for people other than themselves. We had an energetic and productive day; the conversation was lively, thoughts were unfiltered because the environment was conducive to the trust and acceptance that comes from working on a level playing field. We’re all looking forward to next Thursday. Do you hear a ‘but’ in my written voice? Please tell me you do, for there is one.
Here it is – if everything went so well, why do I feel ambivalent about the results? Why are these engaging people attending this program? (“Oh, Mandy….”). I know the obvious answers – the syllabus looked intriguing, they need/want training that will enhance and/or introduce new skills to their managerial toolkit, their supervisors want to feel like they are according them with professional development opportunities, etc (“You came and you gave without taking…Oh, Mandy”). I get all that. Each person left with a detailed commitment to doing one thing differently before next week. And their takeaways were good. Talk about ‘koombaya’ moments – it doesn’t get much better for someone like me.
Yet with all this good stuff, there is a reality that can’t be ignored. The supervisors of these people – whether at the C-level, director, administrator – regardless – send people to training with some implicit expectation that they will emerge more seasoned, greatly enhanced and/or permanently, positively changed by the experience. The supervisor gaveth the training, and the new supervisor is now minted. Well, I’m going to shoot myself in the foot here – give me a moment, while I consider the value of self-harming…hmmm..
Ok, I’m going to do it anyway. Sending people to training – even the most outstanding training on the market – doesn’t mean a damn thing if you are not planning to hold people accountable for their post-training results. It is critical that supervisors expect that along with attendance comes a post-seminar conversation that addresses any ‘aha’ moments the individual may have had, what revised goals or objectives might be derived as a result of the training and then (drumroll, please we’re getting to the bridge of “Mandy here” – oh, and can I have a shield to protect me from your pelting tomatoes) - you have to hold them accountable. There is no training in the world that is going to catapult a new supervisor into the sphere of rock stardom. No course is offered from which managers will emerge forever changed – unless someone is following up with them. People may feel short-term inspiration, pumped up about the interesting conversations and ideas, hopeful that they can now deal with a challenging employee in a new way. But you know as well as I, that the ROI is not measured in the first days post-training (“But I sent you away, oh Mandy….”). It is measured in the engagement of employees within the department, the quality of the intra-and-inter-department communication, the effectiveness and facility with which newly trained managers pay-it-forward. As I have said before (sigh…”And I need you today…”) – people aren’t ‘managed’; people are ‘developed’. That takes time – your time. How accountable do you hold yourself for ‘developing’ your people? Tougher question – how accountable do you hold yourself for getting involved in the professional progression of your people post-training? Besides asking how the program was, what do you do to ensure that their ‘takeaways’ become organic elements of their management style? How often have I heard a participant say, “My manager would never let me do that”, “How can I get my boss to see that this is really a good idea?”, “I have the title, but not the authority to really impact the team”….
So there’s my big ‘but’ (please note the spelling of the word) – If you’re going to invest in your people financially, recognize that it doesn’t get you off the hook. It puts you directly on it – as it should. You are now going to have to invest your time, your flexibility, your willingness to walk the walk and talk the talk if you want to truly maximize the impact of training and development programs. It’s so not about the money – it is so about you. After all…”…[you] write the songs that make the whole world sing…..” Sorry, I couldn’t resist.