Making the Most from Outside Trainings

So, you have a team member that’s taken the initiative to find a training outside the organization that will help build their skill set.  Congrats on having a relationship with your team that allows them to feel this is something they can/should do!  Now that you’re paying for this training (and their time not at their desk pushing paper), how do you make sure you maximize the company’s dollar while they’re there?  Great question!  Read on for a few steps to ensure both the organization, and your savvy team member, benefit from this initiative.

Prep

Have a pre-training pow-wow with the team member to prep them for the training.  This is a key time to review topics like: what motivated them to search for this training, what do they expect to get from the training, what topic outlined in the overview seems like it will be the most beneficial to them, how do they plan on taking notes/information away from the training so they can implement it at work.  With any of these topics, ask follow up questions; a great follow up is: why.

“What topic outlined in the overview seems like it will be the most beneficial to you? … That’s great!  Why does that one stand out for you?”

Initial Follow-Up

Within a week of the training, have another chat with your team member about how the training went.  Again, be armed with some questions that will help the conversation flow in a productive direction: how did the training meet their expectations, what tips/tricks did they find the most useful, which topic ended up being the most interesting/applicable to them, how do they plan to implement these in their regular work day.  Just like with the initial conversation, be sure to ask probing questions.

“When we chatted prior to the training, you felt like the section on organizational skills would be most helpful to you, what topic actually provided the most information you found useful? … Really, that’s interesting!  Why do you think that one took the top of the list?”

Extended Follow-Up

This, although the farthest from the training, may be THE MOST IMPORTANT part.  It’s super easy to start something new when it’s fresh and fun, but much harder to bring it from passing fad to part of the routine.  Schedule a follow up with your team member to look at how this training has impacted their actions long term: what tips/tricks have you kept from your training, which have you modified to be more specific to you and your work, which tips/tricks ended up not working for how you run your desk.  This follow up should be in the 6-8 week range, and can be repeated as necessary to help your employee work through any challenges with changing the way they work.

“Last time we chatted about your training, you were super excited to try a few new processes, which do you feel has been the easiest to implement? … Was this the one you expected to be the easiest? … What about it has made it easier than the others?”

Remember these conversations aren’t some series of questions you have to mark off a to do list, take the time to have an actual conversations around this training.  Your team member put a lot of effort into finding something and had the guts to ask for it; show them your gratitude by giving them your time/attention.

What do you do to help your team make the most out of trainings?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!

 

Help! My Manager is SO YOUNG!

Let me preface this entire post by saying, I’ve only had the experience of being the young manager, but I promise your manager is feeling just as awkward about the whole thing as you are.

I was lucky enough to have a company believe in me as the manager of a developing department at 27.  I know, I know… this post isn’t about me, and now I have played into stereotypes that millennials can be self-centered.  Apologies to you, dear reader, and to my fellow young’ins; I only mean to provide some background on my experience on this subject.

So, we’ve established that you have Doogie Howser as your manager, how are you supposed to interact with them?  Do they even know what it’s like to be in the work force?  Do they even know what you do or who to go to for issues?  In all honesty, they probably don’t know everything, even if it feels like sometimes they act like they do.  Read on for 5 things to help you be successful with your new leader.

Stay Open Minded

Remember that being a manager does not mean someone has to be an expert at every aspect of the job, they only need to know who those experts are: like you.  They will have learning to do about the job, about the corporate world, and themselves.  There was a point where you were learning the same things at the same age, so provide them the patience offered you.

Keep a Sense of Humor

I promise they mean know harm when they try to relate, but sometimes it comes out in phrases like “My mom really likes that too.”  They honestly want to connect with you and build a professional relationship.  They took on a leadership role because they felt they had something to offer to improve the process and contribute to a successful team, but they are still young, so they don’t know shows you may reference and may try fist bumps or high fives, but they mean well.  Take things as they were intended and you’ll both be happier for it.

Communicate

This is true of any relationship, professional or otherwise, but especially true when you’re feeling uneasy about things.  There are always professional ways to discuss topics, and your manager is probably eager to hear your thoughts.  Bringing up roadblocks in the process with ideas on how to remove those are a great way to show your initiative, and give your manager the chance to lead you.  This is a great way for both of you to feel more comfortable.  Don’t have any life changing ideas at the moment? Simply ask if you can have regular one on ones with your manager (i.e. monthly) so you two have time to discuss your accomplishments, concerns, or anything else that comes up at the office.

Trust

This is so hard, especially if the relationship is new; however, your organization saw something in this person.  You may not have seen it yet, but without keeping an open mind, and trusting the hiring/promotional process your company has in place, you’ll never allow yourself to see these great characteristics.  Additionally, anytime management changes, other changes follow.  Trust that your manager (although young) has thought through a vision and is working toward this.  If you’re having a hard time trusting, I refer you to topic 3: Communicate.  They can only help if you tell them what’s going on.

Focus on the Positive

I think the easiest way to find a connection with a young manager is to focus on the positive.  Their excitement is contagious, hold on to that.  They’re not so stuck on working 8-5 so you have more flexible hours now, hold on to that.  Team meetings are totally different, and maybe weird, but fun, hold on to that.  Allowing yourself to find the positive and internalize it is really one of the best ways to make a situation better.  I hear my mother now: If you can’t change the situation, then change your attitude.  Thanks, mom!

What tips or tricks have you found helpful when dealing with age differences in the workplace?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Am I Manager Material?

You’re thinking about applying for a promotion, or perhaps have just been offered one, but just aren’t sure if you want to take the step into managing people…  Congratulations! I applaud you for taking this decision seriously.  Being a manager (or supervisor or team lead, etc) is more than just doing your current job even better.  Being a manager means you’re signing up for a totally different type of job.  So how do you know if it’s a job you truly want?  Read on for some help in the soul searching portion of your journey.

You’re not in Kansas anymore

Being a manager typically means the day to day work you’re used to will no longer exist.  Be ready for your “regular” work to disappear.  Your day will now be filled with answering questions, creating and giving trainings, making decisions, and removing roadblocks.  For first time managers, this can be a huge shock if they’re not expecting it.  Be prepared to be measured on how your team performs rather than how you perform.  Their failures are your failures; their successes are your successes.

Expectations are HUGE

Now that you’re responsible for a group of people’s work, you need to ensure expectations are clear.  This means working with your management team to understand any goals they have for the team’s performance.  Then you need to break this into achievable chunks and set these to the team.  Because you’re responsible for a group, you have to be extremely clear with them about what they should be accomplishing.  Without a clear message, it is impossible for anyone to meet expectations.

This is the first question to ask yourself when your team appears to be falling short of the mark: Did I clearly outline where we need to be and how to get there?

If you are unable to outline expectations, make sure that you understand what they are.  There’s no shame in asking questions.  This is the only way to ensure your team, and ultimately you, are successful with your organization.

People, People, People

Your life is now interacting with people.  People you see almost every day.  People who will remember the past conversations you’ve had.  People who talk with each other on those conversations with you.  Although you’re dealing with people almost constantly, your job may feel very lonely.  Because you’re interacting with people that interact with each other, you need to be on guard and professional at all times.  That frustrating conversation you just had? You can’t vent to your desk-mate anymore because they can share that with their peer.  The constructive feedback you’re nervous about providing?  You can’t chat with your work friend because they may tell someone else.  This is an immediate transition that isn’t always obvious when taking on leadership for the first time.  Be conscious of this decision, this is a permanent change when you move into management.

Wow, this was a LOT of information to think about, so let’s recap… What do I need to think about when deciding if management is for me?

  • Am I ok being lonely because I can no longer share my frustrations with team members?
  • Am I ready to ask lots of questions so I can communicate expectations clearly to a group that depends on me?
  • Am I able to delegate work appropriately?
  • Am I ready to see the big picture, like roadblocks further down the road, rather than only the next step in the process?
  • Am I confident to work with other managers to find solutions that remove roadblocks?

If the answer is ever no, there’s no shame in not wanting to move into management.  There are plenty of career opportunities that do not necessarily involve managing others.  Taking the time to really think about if this career path is for you, shows a level of maturity you should be proud of.  Deciding you have other career goals is exciting, so congrats on taking the next step in achieving great things!  Deciding management is for you, so congrats on taking the next step in achieving great things!

What other things should we consider when moving into managing others?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

 

Make Training “Stick”

As managers, we all want one thing: our team to “get it.”  In order for our teams to be successful, we have to set them up for success.  But, miss Management Musings, how do we do that?

Great question!  Read on for a few tips and tricks on ways to help make training topics or processes a more permanent part of your teams every day work.

Assess

Assessing a team or member’s abilities is the first step in creating effective training.  If you start somewhere way over their head, nothing will stick because they don’t have the appropriate groundwork to build on.  Conversely, if you start way below where they are, they’ve tuned out long before you get to anything that will be helpful or necessary for them to learn.

How do I assess where my team or a member is on the scale?

  • Review work
  • Provide assessment sheets
  • Talk with the team/member
    • This is a huge one.  Regular one on ones should occur, providing time for team members to alert you to roadblocks and for you to discuss ongoing areas for improvement.

Plan

Plan trainings ahead of time.  It’s SO easy for us to let our team trainings fall to the bottom of the work pile.  DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN.  Effective training requires attention.  We’ve all heard the “you get in what you get out” adage.  So planning means both planning enough time to be prepared, and planning the actual training itself.

What should I consider when planning?

  • Am I creating interaction with myself and the team?
  • Am I allowing enough activities to ensure the team gets hands on experience?
  • Am I planning for breaks to let people check on work and/or absorb for a minute?
  • Am I making the information relevant to the team?
  • Am I creating documentation for reference and consistency?

Perform

Perform in this sense isn’t just a term interchangeable with “complete” the training.  When providing training, you really should be performing.  You’ve assessed and planned so that you have a very specific set of information to provide.  You should be doing so in an engaging way.  Capturing and holding attention is key to helping training last past the hour where the team sits in front of you.

How do I “perform” during my training?

  • Keep the session high energy
  • Interact with the team
  • Force answers by waiting, waiting, waiting
  • Provide real-life examples
  • Sprinkle in stories, where applicable
  • Follow the “Learn, See, Do” approach to ensure hands on experience is occurring
  • Again, keep things high energy

You can even monitor the success of your training in the same ways you assessed training needs in the first place.  Reviewing work, creating an assessment, or discussing regularly with the team are ways to keep your finger on the pulse of how your team is doing.

What tips or tricks do you use when training teams?  I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below!

Being a Manager

How many of us have a manager?  Tons.  How many of us want to be a manager? Fewer.  How many of us fantasize about being a better manager than the one we currently have?  All of us.

So what does it mean to be a manager?  This may be somewhat specific to the individual, but I’ve called out a few key points that truly get to the heart of what being a manager means.

Working for Others

This may seem counter-intuitive, but managing a team truly means that you work for them.  The most efficient use of this is to spend your time listening to your team to find out what currently stands in the way of completing work in a more efficient manner.

The Buck Stops Here

It’s SO easy in our work lives to hear our managers grumble about how a project is moving fast enough or had errors that caused issues.  The phrase “Shit roles downhill” shouldn’t be something you tell yourself after chiding a direct report.  In those moments when you feel your next/only option is to pass the tongue lashing you received, I refer you to the previous point.  Listen to your team member to learn why it’s running behind or had mistakes.  What’s the underlying issue.  Take this information, and if necessary, synthesize it for your management team to help them understand the hurdles currently being faced.

Being Decisive

One of the best and worst parts of being a manager is being a key decision maker.  Obviously, you want to spend time weighing options and hearing from key people to provide proper input into the decision; however, at the end of the day, you need to choose one option and stick with it.  Sometimes this means later changing due to unforeseen influences, but at least you tried something.  You provided clear, consistent direction, and you should be proud of those moments.

Lead Your Team

Each of these words are so important.  Leading is key as a manager and has so many connotations of what it takes to be a leader.  That alone is it’s own post.  Take ownership of the team.  Their successes are your successes.  Their mistakes are your mistakes.  It’s up to you to help them understand their role and live in it successfully.  Being part of a team is so rewarding.  My best advice on how to show a team you live as part of them rather than “above” them is to practice.  Practice living the idea that any successes belong to “we” and any failures belong to “me.”  Once a team believes you have their back, they are willing to go a lot further to help that we stay successful.

Managing a team is so rewarding when everything meshes.  If it doesn’t, go back to your roots.  Read through these ideas above.  Try your hardest to practice these every day.  If a team sees a change in you, they’re more willing to change themselves to match the new team dynamic.

What do you love most about being a manager?  What is the most challenging?  Have any questions?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments.