A college professor once told me, “You train dogs. You teach people.” Simple point, celebrating the human ability to think and reason. And simple to do, with lasting results, even without a budget for formal training programs. Here are tactics that I know work:
Insight & Feedback
Never underestimate the impact a manager can have. Providing perspective or offering a pearl of wisdom can make all the difference. Explain the background on how tasks fit into the larger project, why they’re important, and how the employee can affect success. Sharing these insights teaches thinking and results in great work.
It’s easy to forego allocating time after a big meeting or project to debrief. But doing so is the first step toward success the next time and an opportunity for a “teachable moment.” No matter how simple, a few pointers about what went well and what could be done better foster learning and motivation.
New or Stretch Assignments
Take someone to a meeting or give them a task outside their core role. It gives them perspective on other people and projects and an opportunity to test new or unused skills.
Have employees swap roles annually (or with whatever frequency makes sense) when jobs are process-oriented and tasks are repetitive and predictable. This gives them a chance to teach each other, builds an appreciation for others’ jobs, staves off boredom and discontent, and provides continuity to cover an absence or for succession planning. This works best when there’s parity of job levels and a willingness to learn.
If your organization retains interns, consider having a non-manager supervise them. This builds the future leader’s management skills. It’s most successful if you outline expectations and give the budding manager regular feedback and coaching.
Buddies and Shadows
Assign the new person or junior team member a “buddy” to facilitate their integration into your organization. The buddy can be a peer tutor for their work and/or someone that introduces them around, explains company culture, or mentors them on professional matters. This accelerates the new/junior person’s progress and gives the buddy leadership experience.
When seasoned employees want to learn about a particular area or project, arrange for them to shadow another team member. First ensure a willingness to put in extra effort, if necessary, so that core responsibilities don’t suffer. This is also a great way to keep team members engaged during times when workloads are lighter.
If you found this helpful, please share it with a colleague. If you want to know more about building a great team, give me a call, send me a note, or let’s meet. You’ll be glad you did.