Monthly Archives: December 2012

No training is (often) bad training

When we talk about training, it is common to ear that they should be given on purpose. The purpose being “doing a better job”. Likely, when someone need a specific skill she/he doesn’t have yet, it is often when we can demonstrate a Return on Investment that he/she will be sent in training.

This is quite black or white. To be or not to be skilled! In real life, people may have partial skills, or a minimal level of proficiency in a skill. Sometimes they believe they have the skill and as you might know, the worse thing than not having a quality is believing you have it (so you are certain you will never get it).

Nowadays, creating documents is not the sole tasks of secretary. They don’t exist as such anymore, they are Personal Assistant. Why, because most people, including managers, create and type their documents by themselves. Reports, emails, presentations, spreadsheets, who isn’t working with those beautiful office tools? Which percentage of users are sufficiently skilled to use these tools efficiently? In 2012, I still have seen manually generated table of contents in large documents, titles underlined using underscores, mistakes in spreadsheets due to lack of knowledge of the tools or surcharged presentation missing their primary objective: convince people. OK, they are just loosing time and efficiency. As time and efficiency are money, companies are just loosing money due to the lack of training. Is it so bad? No, if you can train them now and stop loosing money.

Though, as Jack Zenger underlined it in his article “We wait too long to train our leaders“, no training is bad training, even more for soft skills. Why? Even if you are not trained, you do practice and practicing bad behaviors is fostering bad habits. With spreadsheets and word processors, it can be corrected easily. But, when it comes to soft skills, to human interactions, it is another challenge to correct bad habits. Moreover, if a manager is a lousy communicator, improving his listening and communication skills will not be the only challenge. Having his staff letting him the chance to use his new skills, to trust him might take some time. In the meantime, as you must know, your employees are living their bad managers, even if you, as a company, are proposing attractive salary or bonuses.

Most managers I know have difficulties to manage people. Budgets, programs, projects, objectives, board seems to be somehow difficult but still manageable. People? No thank you. Conflicts, competition, motivation, expectancies, turnover, headhunter recruiting your best elements, stress, emotions management… it is not an easy task to manage human. In fact, you don’t manage them, you can just love them (or hate them, but its seems less efficient). Nevertheless, as a recent article in Le Monde was pointing out: more and more managers don’t want to be managers anymore. Companies are then loosing good employees and managers.

Of course, universities and management schools don’t prepare well to this task. Even with a degree in psychology, you won’t be ready to be a manager. Of course you have natural born managers. Some of them even became great leaders and created their own companies. But, what will the 98 other procent do?

Yes, we can train them. In fact, you MUST train them. Not tommorow when they will come to you nearly burned out. No, today! Now!

But how? What do they need? After more than a couple of decade spent working for companies and organization of all sizes, I still have the feeling that, before being bad communicators, a lot of managers are bad listeners. Too often also, we find narcissistic managers, lacking empathy, certainly a good quality to find amongst leaders. Above stress management, emotion management should be also a good skill to develop. (see Daniel Goleman video below for more insight around the emotional intelligence and leadership). Being mindful does certainly helps too. A manager able to stop, take time, take some distance, will likely be more available for his collaborators, to be more creative, to listen. Honnesty, integrity is also something you expect from Managers, as you certainly already do. Nevertheless, this honnesty must encompass his relationship with all the employee. He should not be put in such position by the organization that he cannot be honnest with them (I already wrote on Corporate values, I will certainly come back to this soon).

So, to summarize, inmy top 5 of soft skills a manager should have:

  • Listening
  • Empathy
  • Mindfulness
  • Emmotional intelligence
  • Honnesty

As these 5 skills are thightly bound together,  you might look for some holistic approach. Of course, higher in the hierarchy you start, the better.


Additional reading (external):

The Value of a Good Manager? People Leave Managers Not Companies! Why your employee are living?

Daniel Goleman “Social Intelligence and Leadership” sur Harvard Business Publishing on YouTube

Training your employees

While I was discussing the different ways of leveraging changes in a company, a little story came back into my mind. It’s a famous one, I think, but it still worth being shared:
During a company’s board meeting, The HR director is asking for a budget to provide communication and soft skills training to the employees.
– The CFO: but what happen if people leave the company? we’ll loose this investment.
– The CEO: maybe, but what will happen if they stay and we don’t train them?

Budget to train people are sometimes hard to obtain (fortunately, not in most companies). The dialog here above must not be so far of the questions that senior executives might have in mind, sometime.

One of the question that comes to my mind is: where does the value of your company reside? Is it in hardware, software, bricks or in your employees’ ability to perform their jobs efficiently. Where are your margins? Where do you have room for improvement? In IT, it is quite common to purchase hardware of software with maintenance included. It seems to be less the case with people. Although most HR department have budget for training, I often hear that it is not fully used when we are talking about consulting companies or that there is not enough to train people as they should be in other. It also strikes me that some companies prefer to provide technical training, hard skills, than soft skills. But if you think about it, what are the most difficult skills to develop? Hard or soft? And training like stress management, emotion management, inter-personal communication or mindfulness are often sees as solution to a problem or a “deficiency”. Should they not be part of the common skills all employees should have? Wouldn’t it be beneficial for all?

Of course, one of the risk might be that your employee become to love their work, their managers and their company and finally decide to stay because they are happy. It is a risk. Are you ready to face it?