To many creative or technical types, leadership does not exactly come naturally. When making the jump to team lead, mentorship or training is compulsory.
The trend toward flattened hierarchies along with changing demographics has created a significant leadership gap. According to one report from HR consulting firm Aon Hewitt, almost 60% of U.S. companies are facing a talent crunch.
In the creative world where sound leadership is already too rare, how do we create organizations ready to tackle our biggest challenges?
Until we can upload skills directly to our brain stems, practical management training, coupled with learning on the job, is still our best recourse. But let’s face it, most management training doesn’t really work. You learn some things and get a dose of motivation to be a better leader, but all too often, when you return from training and get back to work, significant behavioral changes are elusive. It’s easy to fall back into familiar patterns.
Here are some of the glaring problems with management training and how to fix them:
Multiple days, ongoing training, weeks or months–it all takes you out of the day-to-day and prevents you from doing your real work.
The fix: Make management training shorter. Aim for a half-day with 10 minutes of daily follow-up.
Management training can cost thousands of dollars. For a small business with several up-and-coming new leaders, it’s prohibitive.
The fix: Handle training in-house and seek to show a return on investment of time and money within days, not months, years, or never.
We’ve all seen training programs tout a huge list of competencies you must learn in order to be successful. Not only is that just not true, it can also overwhelming to the point of stasis.
The fix: Streamline the content around core topics. Make training laser-focused around a few core competencies like communication, leading a team, and decision-making. Focus on micro-improvements and concentrate on keeping those in your sights.
There’s no follow-up to revisit the things you’ve learned in training. There’s no feedback mechanism for developing what works and dumping what doesn’t. The trainer is done and gone.
The fix: Have the group follow up with regular check-ins. The most helpful training contains some method for keeping accountability.
There is no support system or sense of camaraderie or teamwork among managers. You’re left to deal with your own team and your own challenges on your own.
The fix: Create a buddy system for new managers. What if you had a buddy (not a supervisor) to bounce ideas off of, help you navigate sticky situations, or give you a pep talk if need be?
Often you feel lost as one of many in a training group. Your specific issues can never be addressed and information only delivered in general terms that are not useful.
The fix: Make learning a small group activity. Small groups allow for more interaction, more attention to your specific issues, and closer bonds among attendees so you can rely on them later.
Speaking of your specific issues, training in generalities does nothing to help you with your day-to-day, the stuff that’s really giving you fits.
The fix: Training should include working through your actual, real-world problems with the group. One element of management training should always be role-playing or dealing with specific real-time issues in a group setting: talking through issues and arming you with solutions to take back to your team.
So much management training is delivered in platitudes, inspiration, and hope, which can give you a boost of energy and purpose, but this quickly fades if not backed up with tools you can use to deal with specific problems and grow as a leader.
The fix: Design it to be practical, not to feel good. Management training should be designed to make you better at your job of managing other people. Inspiration and motivation helps, but tools are better.
Management training is not going away, it just needs a reboot. If anything, learning to lead a team and be a better manager will become more in-demand as the workplace shifts. When leaders are given a better chance to grow and continually learn how to be more effective, they enjoy their roles and can blossom into true leaders.