As always, whenever or wherever we teach The Privilege of Leadership, the same emerging themes are communicated when we ask folks, “What is your greatest leadership challenge?” Many of these challenges we have already discussed in previous blogs. Inevitably, one of the challenges that always comes up, and is near and dear to our hearts, is training. So we drill down and we ask “What is meant by training being a challenge?” Some of the common answers are organizing it, prioritizing it, motivating folks to show-up, making sure it meets organizational needs and member expectations, and making sure all of the right stakeholders receive it. Indeed, all of these can be challenges, so if we want to overcome the challenge, then we must identify the solutions. These might include designing a standard training plan, developing written goals and objectives, communicating the relevancy and importance of the training to all members, and ensuring that everyone shows up, participates, and uses what they have learned.
Well that’s it! Do those four things and problem solved, right? Not necessarily. There are always barriers that get in the way of making things work, and training is no different. Resistance to training, resistance to change, not enough time, not enough money or physical resources, lack of buy in by leadership, and poor communication methods are often listed.
So when we discussed this topic recently with a dynamic group of chief officers in Nebraska last month, we asked them to identify what strategies they could employ to overcome these barriers. After all, if we let the barriers get in the way of doing what needs to be done, then we are not exercising our privilege of being leaders. So here are some of the answers from the “room”:
Start with “me” – If we want folks to buy-in to training we need to lead by example, model the way, and show others we are committed. Kouzes and Posner (2002) in their bestselling book, “The Leadership Challenge”, emphasize the importance of identifying and building a set of shared values, and then setting the example by aligning our actions with these shared values. Being a lifelong learner, establishing credibility by embracing training ourselves, and encouraging our fellow leaders to do the same are all examples of aligning actions with values.
Develop a game plan –Necessarily, effective training needs to be an organized endeavor. Training needs to be outcome focused, not just output focused. These outcomes need to align with the organization’s strategic plan. Developing a comprehensive training plan also includes involving a cross-section of stakeholders in the organization. When folks are allowed to get their fingerprints on the overall plan, they are more likely to buy-in.
Adapt training to the needs of the organization – Organizational training objectives must mesh effectively with service delivery expectations. Indeed, there are a number of “mandatory” training topics that need to be covered in order to comply with federal and state laws, or to meet minimum performance standards. Training needs to be relevant. There should be an observable connection between training and job performance. The reasonable expectation that should be apparent is that relevant and high-quality training enhances people’s ability to demonstrate exceptional performance. A good way to involve the members of organization in identifying relevant training is to conduct a thorough Training Needs Analysis.
Use the most effective modes of communication – How are organizational training objectives communicated in your organization? Emails? Memos? Meeting pass-downs? Is it effective? Do people understand the relevancy and importance of a given training event? When it comes to communications, in today’s age of technology and workforce diversity, it stands to reason that organization embraces the current technology for not only delivering training, but also for communicating it throughout the organization. Facebook, twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms just might prove to be an effective communications tool along with the previously mentioned “traditional” mediums.
Involve the RIGHT people: Training is a mission-critical, core function of any high performance organization. The right person needs to be leading the training effort. The training officer, director, or manager, is one the most critical and influential positions in the organization. Thus, the person who holds this position must be credible, technically competent, experienced, and possess a thorough knowledge of relevant subject matter, industry standards, and best practices. He or she also needs to be relationship driven and know how to reach out to, and engage subject matter experts within (or outside) of the organization to ensure that the training is credible as well. It is also essential that the individual or individuals involved in training development and delivery are highly motivated, passionate, committed to excellence, and can demonstrate influence by getting all of the “right” members of the organization, including formal and informal leaders, to advocate and participate in all aspects of the training plan. Remember, every good leader is only effective as his first, and most influential followers. This is huge – remember “Leadership Lessons from the Dancing Guy”? When people have a vested interest in the “outcome”, then they are more motivated be a part of the process.
So, what is YOUR training challenge? What barriers have you faced that have kept you from meeting your training goals? What strategies might be used to overcome these barriers to be successful? Are some of the suggestions above helpful? We would love to hear your thoughts and comments. As leaders, we only become better and more effective when we share, observe, reflect, and transform with a passion for continuous improvement.