Without Training, You Will Be Mediocre
So true, isn’t it? If your organization has not reached a point where training is systematic and part of the culture, your delivery will most likely become stale and your organization in danger of becoming mediocre.
Training is the third of four organizational disciplines I want to share with you. The first was creating systems; the second was monitoring metrics; and we will conclude the series on Monday with the post: Without Profit, You Will Be Limited. While most leaders know that training is important, so many of us struggle to make it a reality in a consistent and effective manner.
In my own leadership journey, leading small teams of a handful or large teams of a hundred, my observation is that making training a priority always takes intentional effort. Unfortunately, it is often put aside for more urgent matters. Sure, we all offer basic training to our staff. We have to. Otherwise the organization would shut down. But the training I am referring to is not the essentials that everyone has to know. I am talking about creating consistent and measurable training plans that will take your team into excellence.
Training should be a proactive investment into your people and organization. It is tempting to accept a reactive role in leadership: always tending to “emergencies” that demand our immediate attention. But great leaders understand the importance of preemptive leadership: staying ahead of the problems by training from the beginning and continuing it as part of your culture.
It can be overwhelming, and you may not have the time or the resources to see it through right now. But don’t let it slip off your radar. Know where you want to go in that area, and make it your goal to have world-class training in your organization. Here are a few principles to help you get your training program in shape.
Training Is Not Meant to be an Event
I am an advocate for attending conferences and seminars. In fact, I make room in my annual budget for a few conferences I like to attend for my own personal growth. I also make sure the organizations I lead have a budget to send people to various conferences each year. But if we rely solely on events for training, we will not see lasting effects in our people or in our businesses. Training is not meant to be an event. It is meant to be the culture.
It’s really no different than physical training. If I decide to go to the gym four times a year for an intensive workout, I will not achieve lasting health benefits. But if I change my lifestyle, so I can commit to going three times a week for a year, I will condition myself to be in better physical shape. Similarly, if we want to see long-term benefits for our staff, and subsequently our organizations, then we must train regularly.
If we do not have systems in place to regularly train our people to not only maintain what they know, but build upon their current skill set, we will quickly become mediocre. Or worse, obsolete. Training must be the lifestyle of our organizations if we are to offer our customers our best products and services and remain competitive in our fields.
Training Is Not Meant to be a Punishment
Traditionally, we offer training to two people groups: new hires and under-performers. And since many times training consists of hours of dull processes, most people see it as a punishment. But that should not be the case. Training should be an exciting part of everyone’s routine growth.
Training is meant to be an opportunity for everyone to sharpen their expertise—whether it’s in the area of customer service, employee relations, organizational leadership, or job-specific skills. Training must be a top-down exercise. Every element of our culture should be that way, the leaders must practice it first. When the executive leadership value training and development, both personally and organizationally, you will see it passed down among the ranks. These are the companies to watch out for.
Training Is Meant to be a Part of the Culture
If you do not have training mechanisms in place, or your efforts to this point have been random and inconsistent, it can seem like a daunting task to undertake. Refuse to let the size of it hold you back. Just like physical training, we must start where we are. We must take one step at a time. Here are a few simple ways to cut your training program down to size and get your people on track for greatness.
- Identify areas of importance. Begin by making a list of areas in which you wish to see improvement. For instance, do your people lack excellence in customer service? Would you like to teach them leadership skills? Is your organization lacking a polished, uniform way of delivering products and services?
- Create momentum by starting small. Of that list you created, which ones would be doable with the resources you currently have? When you start training in one area systematically and everyone sees positive results, it will create momentum to get training going in the other areas where it is needed.
- Develop a training team. If training is to be consistent, someone must be responsible for it. If your organization is small, then maybe you work together with only one other person for a couple of hours a week to begin developing and implementing a program. But the fact is, if training isn’t assigned to someone as a specific responsibility, it will be neglected.
- Create a budget. Training is not cheap. Programs have to be developed, maintained, and updated. People’s time must be invested—both the trainers and the trainees. Even if you must start small, start. Determine what you can invest into training. And spend it!
- Get your people on board. Create excitement about training. Solicit employee ideas on areas that need growth and attention. Encourage team leaders to develop training plans for their departments. Spotlight and reward excellence in customer service or product development.
- Make it part of your culture. Training becomes a part of our culture when we make it a standard expectation, and we keep it fresh. Be innovative in your methods and in the kinds of training you offer to your people.
I don’t know about you, but I do not want to lead a mediocre organization. So, we must be serious about making consistent and effective training part of our culture. Your organization, your products, your services, and your people are only as good as your training.
Actionable Step: Set a few hours aside with the leadership of your organization to discuss one area in which you could begin developing systematic training for your team.
About me: After college I took a year off before starting medical school. I lived in Santa Monica, California, where I worked at a hotel and a private valet company.
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