082 – Employee Training: How Managers Can Teach Anything to Anyone
Subscribe and Listen to the Your Best Manager Podcast!
Hey what’s going on!
Jamie Newman here and welcome back to another Monday episode of the Your Best Manager podcast. I’m glad you’re here, and if you are listening to this on Monday May 29th and you are American, I’m especially glad that you chose to spend some of your memorial day weekend with me!
But, regardless of when you are listening, thanks for tuning in! I’ve got some super valuable content to share with you today and I’m expecting that most of this will be very new for some of you, but at the same time, incredibly useful regardless of whether this is something new or maybe just a welcome reminder..
We are continuing our Monday series on the Fundamentals of Management, and as a recap… this series kicked off March 6 with episode 46, where I shared 3 Questions You Must Answer If You Want To Lead Others. From there, I spent 2 episodes discussing your number one responsibility as a manager, then I spent 4 weeks on hiring which was followed by 4 weeks on how to run meetings.
And that brings us to today!
And to give you a snapshot of where this Fundamentals of Management series is going, I’ll likely spend a couple of weeks on the topic of employee training and coaching, a week on setting business/team goals & giving direction, a week on communication, and then a week on performance management… which, if nothing changes (so if I don’t get inspired to expand on any of those topics), the last episode of the Fundamentals of Management series will actually land on Episode 100!
But… well chances are that I’ll do something special for Episode 100, so the series finale will then likely be Episode 103.
And that’s nuts! Episode 100 is just around the corner, which is like, over 50 hours of content that I’ve put together for this show since November last year… crazy!
Anyway, as you probably gathered, that means today’s topic is going to be on employee training and coaching.
I’ll be discussing how to train employees today and then next Monday I’m going to share some things on how to be an effective coach, because the ability to train people and the ability to coach people… is a manager skill, a fundamental manager skill that you must learn in order to become a leader.
Which actually brings me to my first point for today.
Many Managers Don’t Think Employee Training is Their Responsibility
While not every manager may consider themselves to be gifted in the area of training, every manager is RESPONSIBLE for having properly trained staff and that means that regardless of your gifting, there are times when a manager must teach and must train their employees.
And I don’t care how great your corporate on-boarding or employee training program is and I also don’t care how incredible the people you hire are. Teaching and training is a manager fundamental.
It’s a fundamental because your performance as a manager, whether you are a front line supervisor or the business owner, your performance is measured by the performance of the people on your team. So it is imperative that the people on your team know how to execute on the behaviors that produce the results you are looking for, as their leader.
And so if you are relying on someone else to train your staff. If you are hoping that someone else has taught your people the right way to do things. If you are banking on hiring staff that already know what they are doing to the level of your expectations.
Then your expectations are too low or too narrow, or you are taking unnecessary risks when it comes to running your team, your department, or your business.
Now. I will say this however, the need for teaching and training is going to be different in each context.
What I mean is that, well, there is a big difference between the training required for an employee who is green in their particular field and the training required for a 20 year veteran of their respective industry.
Equally, I’m not saying that if you are a business owner today, you need to be an expert in every area of your business. You do have a responsibility to hire people who have expertise and there are also times when you will need to hire outside coaching or find internal experts to provide training for your staff.
But what I am saying is that you’ll be hard pressed to find a circumstance where employee training is NOT required or beneficial.
And even in circumstances where it’s appropriate to use outside consultants or internal experts to provide formal skills training, that doesn’t mean that you are not responsible for the quality of that training and that doesn’t mean that you are relieved of your responsibility as a manager to train your people.
Let me explain this a little further.
If your employees require formal training, whether it’s for a technology change or perhaps a skill or behavior where you are not the expert, it’s your job to ensure that training is provided AND it is your job to ensure the quality of that training.
Secondly, even in circumstances where it appears that training or teaching is not needed, you are still going to have opportunities to put on that teaching cap because there is always something that can be learned and improved upon.
And this shows up really in two ways:
The first way is in regards to the behaviors you want to see in your people. For example, if you’re like me and have ever had this thought… well, this point will hit you like a ton of bricks.
“I just wish there were two of me”
Why do we say that? Because there are things that only we know how to do. Or there are things that we do better than other people. Or because we don’t trust that our employees can do some things as good as or as fast as… as we can do them.
Beyond this, if you’ve ever been frustrated because one of your employees does something that seems to defy common sense then you’ve got an opportunity to teach and to train.
The second way these teaching opportunities show up is within the philosophy of lifelong learning, even if you and your team happen to get to a point where you feel like you’ve got it.
So let’s say you are running the all-star consulting firm where the entire company is made up of 20 year industry experts and your business and your team could not run any smoother.
Congratulations, that’s impressive. But don’t be satisfied.
There are always things to learn and there are always things to teach, even if you decide to learn those things together with your team.
Does all this make sense? I know that’s rhetorical but the dead horse I am beating is intended to emphasize that teaching and training is part of your job as a manager, regardless of how good your team is.
I mean, even the most elite athletes in the world have coaches, teachers, and trainers to help them get better.
So the context may change. The circumstances may change. The responsibilities and behaviors may change. But the need for our employees to improve, the need for us to improve… it remains because there isn’t anyone alive who has figured it all out.
And once you become an expert, which is one of the reasons why you were given the opportunity to manage people to begin with, well, now you have the responsibility to teach and train others. That’s another skill to learn and that’s the skill that we are talking about today.
Many Managers Are NOT Good At Employee Training
Before I share some tactics and best practices for employee training, I’ve got one more thing that I want to address.
Just as there are many managers who don’t necessarily feel that they have a responsibility to teach and train, there are just as many managers who recognize the responsibilities they have to teach and train, but who just aren’t very good at it.
And that’s really the purpose of today’s episode.
I trust that most of you listening today fall into this category. Not that you aren’t necessarily good at employee training, but that you recognize that it’s important for managers to teach & train and you want to get better at it.
So, if you don’t think employee training is important. Or if you don’t think that you, as a manager, need to be an effective teacher or trainer, I hope that you understand this: you’re wrong.
And if you think employee training is important, and you want to become a better trainer and a better teacher, I hope that you understand this: It’s easy said AND it’s easy done.
Employee Training CAN be Easy Said, Easy Done
And I can say that with confidence because, for starters, one of my strengths is training.
Before I started managing accounts in my last job, I was responsible for the training and on-boarding program for all of the recruiters we hired within our operation. And then, when I was running my own team, I was responsible for teaching almost every aspect of our business to the people who reported to me.
But here’s the thing:
If you’ve listened to this show for a while, you probably know this already.
I have a tendency to over-complicate things.
Of course, that balances out because I can also simplify things and make complex concepts consumable, but the point is, I’m not perfect and even if you listen to this show and think, “well Jamie is a good teacher, but I don’t have his strengths” …it doesn’t matter.
Because what I do on the Monday podcasts, while you could call it manager training because I essentially teach a different lesson each week… it’s really only one component of effective training.
Which means that most of the people who listen to this show, aren’t going to have their lives transformed when it comes to leadership development.
And maybe I’m taking a shot at the value of this podcast, but it’s true.
The people who become significantly better leaders are the ones who work directly with me, whether that’s through online training, business consulting, or one-on-one coaching.
It’s called experiential learning and it is both the easiest and most effective way to teach and train.
And before I explain the theory and give you some practical application, let me flesh this out a bit more.
As I said, most people who listen to this show will only learn so much. It’s the same with books and self-development. Books are great. Reading is great. Self-development is great.
And some people can read a book, or listen to an audio program, or listen to a podcast, or watch some videos and they can see massive changes in whatever areas of their life, leadership, or business they are looking for change in.
But most people don’t experience massive change because that type of learning is theory based, with application, but… well, with shallow application.
Let me give you an example:
I’ve explained my philosophy of shoulder-to-shoulder leadership before on this show. And if you didn’t listen to that episode, go back to episode 52 where I talk about the concept in a little more detail, but the simple version is that the best managers don’t shout orders from across their desk, they work shoulder-to-shoulder with their employees and manage their time in a way to maximize their effectiveness and impact by jumping in and out of front-line situations.
So let’s imagine that two people listened to that podcast episode. One is named John and the other is named Bill.
John listened to that episode, thought it all made sense, took action and started to change how he interacted with his team. He started to uncover opportunities to jump in and work side by side (or shoulder to shoulder) with his team, on the front lines. And instead of sending emails to communicate what he wanted to see from his employees, he now will often just pull up a chair beside one of his team member’s desks and have a real conversation.
You could say that John has received training and saw change as a result, but let’s contrast that with Bill.
Bill listened to that same episode and he too thought it made sense. But Bill wanted more so he started working with me. So I showed him exactly how shoulder-to-shoulder leadership is done. And after that, Bill and I looked at his business, his responsibilities, and how he runs his team. He started taking action and I worked with him and helped him make some tweaks in how he managed his schedule and coached his employees. And now, Bill is consistently leading his team, shoulder-to-shoulder, and reporting back to me on an occasional basis to let me know how things are going and even letting me know how he is teaching some of his senior team members to do the same.
So, let me ask you, which training was more effective? John’s or Bill’s?
It’s painfully obvious, right?
That’s experiential leadership and it just works. Sure, it costs more time in the short term, but the long term results are deeper and exponentially greater than the upfront costs.
So, is this an infomercial to encourage you to work with me? Well, no, but if you want to chat about it, let me know.
What I wanted to do was share an example of experiential training before I walked through the nitty gritty theory and structure.
So with that brief example in mind, let’s start by defining experiential learning.
Experiential Learning: A “Proper” Definition
There are a ton of diagrams, flow charts, and in-depth commentary on the concept of experiential learning. So instead of you having to go research it all yourself, I’ve done that for you and I’m going to explain the most common explanation and then I’m going to give you a simple (a super simple) framework, so that you can teach anybody anything!
Alright, so the core theory of experiential learning was developed by a man named David Kolb who, in 1984, outlined a 4 stage learning cycle and 4 different learning styles.
That 4 stage learning cycle is made up of the following:
Concrete Experience, which is essentially experiencing something new; watching something new, reading something new, or having a change in perspective. So, in essence, new knowledge. Concrete Experience.
The next stage is Reflective Observation. Which is to review and reflect on this new knowledge and through that process, gain understanding. So, it’s like uncovering the why behind the new knowledge.
The following stage is Abstract Conceptualization. Which is to give rise to a new idea, where this knowledge and understanding are now going to translate into a new way of doing something.
Which leads to the fourth stage of the cycle, Active Experimentation. Which is to take action and start doing whatever this new thing is.
So, to summarize this cycle, experiential learning is to learn something, through experience and then to psychoanalyze that into really complicated terms, which makes my brain hurt.
And to save our brains from hurting, I’m not going to explain the 4 learning styles because they don’t really matter unless you are a psychologist.
But suffice it to say, people learn differently and as such, experiential learning impacts different people in different ways.
So the trick is, or the problem is, or rather the question is, how does this make me a better teacher or trainer? What does this have to do with John and Bill?
Okay, so here’s the thing:
People learn best through experience – through actually doing things.
But just because you do something the right way, doesn’t mean you get it.
For instance, I grew up golfing, but trust me, just being able to swing a golf club doesn’t result in becoming a good golfer. While you will learn through that experience… it’s incomplete, if that makes sense.
So when it comes to learning how to golf, you need to learn what to do, how to do it, why to do it that way and then you need to see it done, have someone show you how to do it and watch you do it. Then at that point, after you’ve seen some results, you could say you’ve learned how to golf.
So let’s get back to this whole experiential learning theory again. You’ve got 4 stages of experiential learning (which for me hurt my brain, but I get it). People learn through experience.
And I know that people learn differently, but psychology tells us that it’s not just as simple as some people are visual learners and some are not.
So, let’s simplify things by looking at both my golf example and Bill’s experience, and work out a framework that works regardless of how people learn because it allows for people to learn through experience regardless of their learning style.
THE FRAMEWORK for Extremely Effective Employee Training
Let me tell you, I tried to find a better framework than what I am about to share and I couldn’t do it. Despite the vastness of the internet, I couldn’t find a better framework.
And after you hear me share this framework, if you can find anything better than this… easier, simpler, and more effective than this… please tell me.
But this framework for teaching and training… anything really, let alone employee training… this framework is brilliant. And if you implement this framework into the way you look at teaching any new concept to your team, you are GOING to see results, immediately.
And the only reason you might not see results is if there is a competency issue with one of your team members, which is a whole different discussion.
But this framework is what was used in my last company for their on-boarding program… and it worked.
Here it is:
Learn. Shadow. Do. Teach.
Learn – Grasp the concept. So this could be through an online or computer based modules, training videos, lectures, or one-on-one discussions, but the point is to start with the what. Start with the concept. Explain what to do, why to do it, and how to do it.
So as a golfer, this would be learning what a golf club is, understanding how the different clubs and the swing impact the trajectory and distance the ball travels (and all the other theory stuff.)
In Bill’s case, this was listening to the podcast episode on shoulder-to-shoulder leadership.
To bring this back to David Kolb’s outline, this is the concrete experience.
Next is Shadow. Which is to watch whatever it is, get done the right way.
So with golf, this would involve the instructor showing you how to swing the club, but it could also include some video training, illustrations, or really any other sort of visual or example experience.
In Bill’s case, he was, in essence, shadowing me. I was working with him and showing him how to actually do lead shoulder-to-shoulder, showing him how to have conversations by giving examples, sharing stories, and having him watch me physically perform certain actions.
Step 3 is Do. Learn, then shadow, then do.
This implies supervised action.
This is where the golf instructor helps new players form their grip on the club, helps them swing for the first time, and then as they get better, watches and corrects behavior.
In Bill’s case, this was me shadowing him. This was me helping him adapt his schedule and giving him feedback after he tried new things and and after he reported back to me on the results.
And then the final step of this incredible employee training framework:
This is the same as the concept of train the trainer.
If you really want to measure comprehension and you really want to evaluate learning, the student needs to show you how it’s done the right way.
Now, this will change depending on the skill or behavior you are teaching, but as a golfer, this would show up by correctly striking the ball without the instructor needing to correct or with minor corrections, or it could be as simple as reporting in after 18 holes with improving scores… and if you take it to extremes, the golf student as some point could become a golf instructor themselves.
In Bill’s case, this included follow up phone calls and progress updates.
But as the trainer, regardless of the circumstance, I want you to think of this stage as testing.
You can test by watching an action be performed, but you can also test by asking questions like, tell me why, or tell me how. Or, of course, you could literally give a written or oral test to measure comprehension.
But ultimately, what happens is that through this Learn. Shadow. Do. Teach. framework, each student starts with understanding a concept, then they are shown how it’s done properly by watching an example, and then they actually try it themselves and through these experiences, get to a point of comprehension and behavior change that results in being able to actually teach the concept or behavior back to you, the trainer.
Learn. Shadow. Do. Teach.
Simple, but extremely effective experiential learning.
As I said at the top of the episode, you are responsible to ensure your people know how to produce the results you need them to produce, which means that there will be times where you are called to train.
And if you model your employee training efforts through a Learn. Shadow. Do. Teach. Framework, then you can be confident that regardless of learning style, each person you train will start with an understanding of the concept, what, why, and how… then they will see it done properly, then you will help them do it and coach them how to do it properly.
And you’ll be able to confidently know that your employee training has resulted in comprehension, behavior change, and proper execution because each person will need to teach the concept back to you; you’ll watch them do it, you’ll test them, or they’ll report back with their results.
It’s easy said and it’s easy done… BUT
The only challenge is discipline.
I mentioned this earlier, but this does take a little more time. However, it’s worth it because most managers train by just hitting step 1 – Learn.
Most managers tell their employees what to do, and some of them tell them why and how to do it. But not every manager shows their employees how and really works with them (shoulder-to-shoulder, ironically), to ensure that important concepts result in behavior change.
And because most managers only hit step 1 of this Learn. Shadow. Do. Teach. framework, most employee training results are short-lived or ineffective.
So if you are willing to put in the time to train your people this way, I can guarantee you will find the results you are looking for.
And of course, if you want more and you really want to implement any of the tactics I share on this podcast, including how to properly train your employees, reach out to me, and I’ll tell you… No, I’ll show you how you can truly transform your leadership.
Thanks for listening.