You should probably approve just about any request for training that comes across your desk.
That may sound a little crazy, but it would actually be a good leadership strategy.
I’ll tell you why.
Your job as a leader is to build a strong team. You work hard to attract top talent, articulate a clear vision, and organize work and processes for maximum productivity.
That’s all good, but not enough.
You need to develop the team and talent that you have, always. And, it turns out, training is one of the absolute best bargains for accomplishing that. If you are ready to embrace a few simple concepts.
Teams need to constantly grow and evolve. Optimization is always the goal, but the goalpost is always moving (and that’s a good thing!).
You need to keep an eye on this as a leader. Actually, you need to do more than that.
External and internal forces are always in flux. New challenges and opportunities surface continually. The business environment is dynamic. Industries evolve. Situations change.
Some of this may leave you frustrated as a leader.
Maybe you wish some of your people would be better at “rising to the occasion.” Or perhaps you would really like to get some “fresh blood” on the team.
You might even want to find some way to “start over.”
That’s why training is so important. You might not get a “do over” or “fresh blood” or other things on your wish list.
But you have maybe the best possible tool right at your fingertips, if you’re willing to use it.
The Training Game
Training may not seem like the obvious answer. Except of course for short-term or immediate challenges.
But let’s step back for a moment and look at the long-term view.
You don’t need to have a clear picture of what future challenges might look like, but you know they are coming.
You probably can’t connect the dots from today’s training request to some future reality.
That’s ok. There is so much more value to training than the simple transaction of dollars and time for skills and knowledge.
Let’s look at a few of them.
Benefits of a Learning Attitude
When you invest in training, you send a clear message to your team. This is not lost on people.
They know that you are investing in them, supporting their growth, and preparing them for the future. What may be less obvious is that you are also helping to satisfy a fundamental human need: to learn and grow.
Growth can fuel motivation. When someone sees that they are capable of doing more, doing better, and doing something for themselves, it can put wind in their sails. Because they know that they are investing in themselves.
People can get real excited to come back into the mix with new vim and vigor.
You can help them to leverage this into broader thinking and longer term success.
You can support new energy, new ideas, new enthusiasm. And you can help to encourage new thinking.
Because that little training venture can be the perfect jumping off point.
When someone goes off to class, they are gathering functional, technical, managerial, or other skills. But they are also gaining new perspective.
The teachers and fellow students all come from different backgrounds, different organizations, different career histories. This can help your team member to see things from different angles and from a healthy level of abstraction.
That can really motivate people to give more, not only to their learning efforts, but to their day-to-day contributions to the team. To share their own experiences and perspective with others when they get back.
All of this adds up to higher level thinking and analysis. Which is exactly where you want people to be going.
These new reference points can help your team to understand that the struggle is real. That there are no simple, “silver bullet” answers, and that other organizations are facing the same challenges.
In fact, your team will probably find that they are doing some things better than others and some things worse. Which is the perfect opportunity for sharing, and the next big value proposition from training.
It’s a chance to network.
Meeting other professionals–particularly others who are out there actively bettering themselves–is crucial to personal growth and development.
These contacts can be great to learn from in class, but even better to stay in touch with over time.
Knowing good people in the industry is empowering. It gives your team a wide range of reference points and collaborators. In effect, your team becomes larger and more capable.
Conferences Count Too!
As you’ve probably guessed by now, what I’m talking about here doesn’t need to be limited to training in the specific sense of a class that your team members attend.
Going to a conference would present many of the same benefits. As would networking events, professional associations, night school, and just about any other learning endeavor (approve all requests for books!).
The point is to start thinking about learning and professional development more broadly. To recognize that there a tremendous amount of additional benefits that can be had, if you choose to lead in this way.
Which of course means that you are cultivating this attitude and encouraging this behavior, and coaching and mentoring your folks so that they can embrace the same line of thinking more easily.
As a leader, you need to get maximum productivity out of your team. Maybe that means producing more widgets in the short term, but you need to have a long term strategy as well.
That long-term strategy means your team needs to grow in capability, capacity, and productivity over time. And there’s probably no cheaper, easier way to accomplish that than training.
Training provides skills and knowledge, but also perspective, insights, contacts, and motivation. It can bring a lot of energy into your team to grow and improve.
But it’s an easy opportunity to miss.
You, as a leader, need to adopt this mindset. You need to budget for and approve those requests. And you need to coach your people through it all. It’s a cultural shift.
Don’t miss this opportunity for you and your team.
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