Train or Die!

I have been deeply involved in recruiting in helping to build a construction renovation company.  Anyone that is looking for help knows how difficult the current market is for finding talented help.  There is simply not enough qualified and experienced candidates for the positions that are open.  

In past years, finding new help was rather easy.  There always seemed to be sufficient candidates in the labor market seeking employment opportunities.  Often these positions would be filled by word of mouth referrals or employment ads and we would interview, select the best candidate and then simply get them plugged in.  Today, the labor market is stretched extremely thin.  Rather than finding a great candidate, we are often stuck with settling for what is available.  

The bad news is that, looking forward, I believe this tight labor market will not change.

So what is the best solution to this problem?  Companies need talented folks, often with specialized skills.  If you are able to find experienced candidates, they will likely bust your compensation structure.  Or they may come with serious baggage.  Or they may be someone elses problem that they jettisoned.  What do you do?

I believe that we are moving into an era where training and mentoring will be the most important focus of a successful company.  We must have the programs and a company culture in place to train, prepare and raise up talent from within our organizations.  We cannot rely on simply seeking new help from the traditional labor market.  Most companies have some training protocol for new hires and existing employees.  I believe most of these programs will fall far short in this new normal.  Most organizations will need to shift the entire company culture to place valuable time and resources on training and mentoring to grow, or just even sustain, their businesses.  Here are a few areas of focus:

Written Policies and Procedures

In order to teach you need a textbook or a place to store information.  Additionally, all team members need to be conducting themselves in a organized and cohesive manner to ensure best results.  I used to coach basketball and the players would often get out of the offense and start to freelance.  When this happened, I would call time out and get them to huddle up and tell them this: If you continue to get out of the offense I cannot help you win the game.  You will be on your own.  You may win or you may not.  If you don’t follow the plays I have no way of really analyzing what we need to do to win.  I can’t help you. It will be a free for all and I will become nothing but a spectator.  Same is true without written policies and procedures.  In order to train and mentor you need the approved and best practices documented.  Verbal teaching is great but they will only remember part of the instruction.  They will forget.  Documenting all policies and procedures is a beast.  At a previous employer, I coordinated, wrote and edited a 600 page policies and procedures manual that included all processes of the company.  In order to complete the task, we divided it up by each departments and I edited the content for clarity and continuity and we used the same format for each procedural element.  This is a big job, yet it is absolutely necessary to provide structure for training.

A Complete Shift Of Culture To Training

Training must be constant and be present up and down in the chain of command.  The excuse that you don’t have time to train needs to be abolished completely.  Everyone is a trainer.  All team members must stop and take the time to teach, explain, model and mentor.  This can only be accomplished by reinforcing and believing in the true value and importance of training starting at the top of the organization and then emanating down through all levels of the organization.  Every person must teach and help to lift others up.  Abolish the typical HR training responsibility and spread the responsibility across the entire company.

Model Successful Behaviors

Bring your assistants and new recruits to higher level and sensitive meetings and strategy sessions so they can see how you handle different situations.  I didn’t realize the power of this until later in my career.  My team members would let me know later that they learned a particular technique by watching the way I handled some tough situations.  It may not be the most efficient way by having extra bodies and it may change the dynamics of the room a bit but these situational opportunities are infinitely valuable.  A quick debrief after will also assist in cementing these learned strategies in their memories.

Formal Training Programs

Many companies have training programs that are generic and really lack the proper amount of focus to their particular operations and issues that need to be addressed.  Training should focus on real company issues that are real, reoccurring and causing damage to the company.  Focus on the areas that will bring the greatest results.  Training should not be developed by the training department or HR.  They can help coordinate, but the best training is designed by each department to handle specific issues.  This will provide actual, positive and scalable results.  Developing training is not easy.  Just putting on a video and having a little multiple choice test is not enough.  Training must be precisely targeted.  Training should stretch you.  It should be difficult.  It should make you a little uncomfortable.  Role playing exercises are extremely effective.  Develop scenarios of problems with characters and have them act out ways to respond to the problems.  Leadership training is also extremely valuable.  The most successful businesses are led by accomplished leaders and most folks leadership skills need serious help.

Create A Cohesive Team Environment

The best training companies have strong company cultures where everyone is working together with clear goals and expectations.  A previous employer called me a cheerleader for the company as I understood the importance of this characteristic.  If you have a cohesive unit, they will naturally help and teach each other.  If the goals and expectations are clear, there is no question what the next step in required skills for your career path or any hesitancy in exercising these new skills.  Leaders need to build strong bonds and reward behaviors that help to strengthen the group.  There is no force greater than a team that cares for each other and works together for a common goal.

These are a few of the major items that will help to foster an environment of continual training.  As a life long learner, I have experienced the power in mastering new skills.  I have personally witnessed the power of learning new skills and the associated resulting career advancement.  Additionally, I have been rewarded with gratitude from former team mates who learned specific and valuable skills as I took the time to teach throughout my career.  Don’t let this opportunity go to waste.  You have a captive audience in employing your team.  Take every opportunity to teach and stretch your team so they will grow and mature into tomorrows leaders.  You really have no choice.  Training is no longer an option. The plug and play days are gone.  Move on to the new normal of raising up your leaders from within your organization.  Train or die!  

So what do you think? Have you also experienced this tight labor market? Do you have a success story or solution you would like to share? Please click on “Leave a Comment” and let me know what you think!

3 Life Lessons I Learned Coaching Youth Basketball

I coached youth basketball when my kids were young. I loved the game and I love kids so it was a great match for me. Basketball is a perfect mix of skill and strategy. This was also evident in the kids. Some where great athletes and some made it through being smart and working hard. I was a student of the game. I studied and observed different defenses and offenses and also what made up good mechanics and personal skills. While I was the teacher when it came to basketball, I learned some valuable lessons that have been ingrained into the way I manage people and the way I look at the world. Yes, these are big statements, but they are true. I still go back to these truths and use them for teaching moments when I am mentoring or problem solving.

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Here are these truths:

Talent Blindness: Some coaches are great at judging talent but most are not. The reason is not because they are not skilled or unintelligent- they are human. We have a very tough time being completely objective. Coaches will tend to provide preference to the kids they like. The kids that make them feel good. The kids of the parents they like. The same can be true in the business world. We provide preference to the folks that are like us. The ones that make us feel comfortable. The ones that make us feel good about ourselves. We can be so talent blind! We judge talent based on how we see the world and how we feel. We can easily miss a diamond because they are different, peculiar and not like us.

Another Set Of Eyes: When I was coaching, I would sometimes get caught up in concentrating on the nuances of the offense and defense and miss big things that were going on. Sometimes I would leave kids in the game too long. Sometimes I would miss that a particular player had a hot hand and was scoring and I would inadvertently pull them out of the game. Its hard to watch everything. No really its impossible. I valued my assistant coaches to speak up and set me straight. In business, we can miss the big picture while we are drilling down on particular issues. I must have a group that I empower to tell me whats really going on and have the guts to confront me when I am doing something stupid. A support group. A few trusted advisors to help us avoid getting caught up in the game.

Emotion Cloud: I struggled with the referees. Kind of a lot. They were often times volunteers and high school kids and their skill level varied. Some were pretty good and some were just horrible. I remember throwing my clipboard on the gym floor of an auxiliary gym once in the middle of a game and then- the gym went completely silent! Not a shining moment for me but a great lesson. You just can’t let emotion take over. People will let you down and do things that are wrong and out of line. You can count on it. It’s how you react that matters. Once I let emotion rule, my head goes to mush and all I got is to fire back. A poor example of leadership no matter where you are. Keep your cool and keep your head!

These are a few of the valuable lessons that I learned while coaching. It’s funny how I consistently learn while teaching others! Learning just never ends. I am always seeking the lesson in things that happen to me. How about you? Are you learning as you go? Do you see the world as a giant classroom? Stay alert to things going on around you. You will be better for it. I promise!

So what do you think? Have you learned while you are teaching? Did this story remind you of a lesson your learned? Click on “Leave A Comment” and tell me what you think!

Make Them Great!

I was having dinner with a site supervisor a while back and he shared his frustration with motivating one of his team members on site. He was convinced that this person was just lazy and could not visualize what was needed on the construction site. He voiced his frustration with this persons inability to think about the next step. This supervisor ia a self-motivated and driven individual. He works very hard and has always been that way. He would work weekends and well past regular work hours.

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I shared an experience that I had with a person that I managed years ago. This person actually shared with me that I need to hold him more accountable. He added that I need to actually call him out sometimes. He shared that I need to ride him a bit in order to get the best out of him. I was really shocked by this. My report was actually asking me to be harder on him!

This was so foreign to me. See, I am more like the site supervisor. I work really hard and I am self motivated. I don’t need anyone else to turn up the heat. I keep the heat on high always. When someone leans on me, I find it offensive not motivating.

So what’s the moral of the story here? Everyone is different. What works on you won’t always work on others.

You can’t manage others the same why you like to be managed!

You may struggle being hard or you may struggle leaving someone alone. But you MUST learn to pattern your management style to the individual. This WILL be uncomfortable. This WILL be tough to do. But trust me- you have no choice if you want to get the very best out of your people. This is not for you- it’s for them. They need your help to grow and prosper.

This is your real job and your true calling. Life is not just about you. Take the time and learn what motivates them. Step up and make them great!

So what do you think?  Have you been mismanaged in the past?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me your story!