Driving home from yesterday’s 4th training session, the “Shoop Shoop Song” from “Waiting To Exhale” was playing in my head. In many ways it’s also the perfect Friday song, and given some of the posts I’ve read this week, it’s appropriate for the end of what appeared to be a tough week. Seems like a lot of us spent much of the week just waiting to let it go…
“And sometimes you’ll laugh, and sometimes you’ll cry
Life never tells us the whens and whys
But when you’ve got friends to wish you well
You’ll find your point when you exhale…”
You can add the ‘shoop shoops’ yourself – there are a lot of them.
Yesterday, I facilitated the last training session with the remarkable group of people of whom I’ve written before. Next week, a colleague will join me for the last part of the program. So in some ways, I had to say good-bye to a dynamic which has fueled, inspired and challenged me once a week for the month. We’ll have a great time next week, and the team united as we know will morph naturally by the presence of a new person. The thought of the upcoming farewells has my stomach more than just a little knotted.
Our topic yesterday was Performance Management – with emphasis placed on the fluidity of the process – the need for it to be a constant loop of communication, not the culmination of twelve silent months with no conversation about a person’s performance. We addressed some of the real issues managers grapple with – the star employees who don’t receive enough feedback because ‘they know’ they’re terrific and other people require more attention; the poor performers who supervisors avoid because ultimately the anticipated hostility/tears/aggressive/defensive reaction (pick your adjective) is just too painful to endure. The challenge of actively listening when studies show that adults really attend for about five minutes within a twenty-minute conversation. How commentary is far more critical than a ‘score’ and how to move a firm and its people away from the numbers and in to substantive feedback. Including the employee in establishing goals, and how to build those goals effectively. We went straight through, with a quick break to bring in some lunch, and just kept going until we could go no longer. They crushed it – figuratively and in a good way. The examples provided, support given to those with a tough situation to handle, enthusiasm and trust in each other – all were so impressive. They inspired me more than I can adequately describe. Do you sense a ‘but’ in all of this? Good – I’m so glad you picked that up.
When our sessions end, they go back to work. At best their supervisors ask them if they’re enjoying the program, if they’re getting anything out of it,etc.. That’s it – the curiousity and interest in the manager and his/her development stops there. They are coming away from these meetings with new ideas, a renewed sense of purpose, some thoughts about bettering themselves and their department. There wasn’t one person who affirmed that his/her boss would be interested in pursuing anything other than things as they are. The most frustrating aspect of this reality, is that I just know what will happen to their enthusiasm, focus and intention. Worse still, they do too. I’m committed to being available to them should they need me, but let’s be real – as time passes everyone gets caught up in the rhythm of their days, and without someone encouraging movement and effort from their supervisors, there is an inevitable return to the norm.
If you are a director or C-level officer, are you really giving your direct reports the room, support and mentorship they need? Are you working with them to formulate opportunities to practice that which they’ve learned once training programs end? What’s your stake in their growth and how do you show that commitment? I’m just wondering, because from where I stand this seems to be the most important part of your responsibilities and the easiest one for you to minimize or disregard. I’m just sayin’…I know there are some exceptional senior executives who read this blog – it would be great to know what you do with and for those managers you send for professional development training once they’ve completed the program or class?
I will miss these Thursdays, yet that doesn’t diminish the value they have held for me. I have met outstanding people, forged a bond that is predicated upon a shared desire to do the right thing for those they supervise and for their firms. I wish them all the success, growth and all the happiness their hearts can hold.
So it’s Friday morning, and the sun is slowly rising. The week ends with some exhausted by the emotional toll that the last few days have exacted; others are thrilled that the week has gone so well. For everyone, I hope the time arrives sometime today when you get to exhale. Happy weekend all.