Monday, September 24, 2012

"Why train 'em? They'll only leave!"

Those were the very words my department head Lenny, said to me some decades ago when we told him we wanted more training. Can you believe it? Of course you can. You've heard the same thing from bosses yourself.

This was misguided then and it's even more so now.

We're coming out of a very tough period for most companies. Everyone knows that when budget cutting is on the table, training gets the ax first. So what's new?

According to a new study published in the Harvard Business Review and highlighted in the Kansas City Star, high achievers who are 30 and under are abandoning ship in droves with an average stay of 18 months. Why? Simple. Lack of training and mentoring for growth.

Imagine that? Young workers want to grow and develop? Isn't that what every management guru since the beginning of time has been telling would-be managers? "Your job is to grow your people." Didn't managers get the memo? Evidently not.

People who have been following the discussions about the millennial generation (Gen Y) have decried the fact they grew up thinking everything they did deserved a "good job" and they all got a prize. But guess what, the reality is that every employee needs and deserves the chance to grow and develop. This isn't a new phenomenon. We are Homo sapiens -- the thinking ones. These young workers are just acting on what is deep-seeded in everyone. We want to learn and grow.

Although my old boss is long gone, his attitude isn't. Here are a few ideas to reverse the trend.
  1. Spend time with all employees finding out what their interests and talents are.
  2. Figure out how to develop those interests and talents for mutual benefit.
  3. Provide formal and informal training and mentoring.
  4. Encourage individual initiative and growth.
  5. Be ready to say "goodbye."
The best boss I ever had was Joe Caccavo. He reported to Lenny but he was not going to allow his views to affect our team. Joe developed a team of dedicated people who would have followed him to the ends of the earth. (Note: we were also civil service and unionized. Joe could not give us promotions or raises.) So how did he do it?
  1. Joe spent time with each of us just talking. He was genuinely interested in understanding our aspirations and talents and then doing what he could to fostering them.
  2. Joe kept looking for ways to give each of us opportunities to develop our talents on the projects we worked on. He allowed us to try different roles and tasks and discover where our real contributions lay.
  3. Joe set up "lunch and learn" sessions in the conference room one a week. They were voluntary but we never missed a one. He supplied the pizza and the knowledge. There was no budget but he found some local professors who were willing to come in once a month and give us more advanced training -- roast beef sandwiches on the menu for those sessions!
  4. He encouraged us to take additional courses on our own and join professional groups that provided educational programs. He attended those meetings with us and helped us network. He let us know when we made mistakes and inspired us to correct them. He was no "softy" and knew how to deliver tough love when we needed it.
  5. No one wanted to leave Joe's team. But Joe knew we needed to move on if we were going to continue to grow and develop. When I went to tell him that after 5 years I was going for a corporate position, Joe was thrilled. Because Joe had supported my development, his team had 5 years of results that benefited the organization. Other teams seldom kept people more than a year (yes even in that protected world.)
So which sort of boss are you? Joe or Lenny? I always tried to follow Joe's example and I still encourage my clients to do the same. If fact, my first advice when times are tough and budgets need to shrink? Increase training! After all, if you want people to do more with less, you need to train and mentor them to do that. Otherwise, they'll hit the road as soon as they can.
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(c) Rebecca Staton-Reinstein, president, Advantage Leadership, Inc.
Author: Conventional Wisdom: How Today's Leaders Plan, Perform, and Progress Like the Founding Fathers. (This link takes you to a special page for a special offer not available publicly.)


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Happy Birthday, US Constitution

On September 17, 1787, delegates lined up to put their names on the document they had agonized over for the last four sweltering months in the Pennsylvania State House. Through it all, James Madison sat near the front of the delegates' meeting hall taking notes in his own shorthand of all the debates, discussions, and final compromises that made it into the document.
Three delegates refused to sign in the very end, holding out for a Bill of Rights. Others of the original 55 representatives from 12 states had drifted away or left in disgust. Rhode Island was not represented. It had refused to participate. Despite everything, with political divides as deep as any today, the remaining delegates signed and sent the new Constitution to Congress to pass on to State ratifying conventions.
Visualize Benjamin Franklin in his eighties, overweight and crippled with a gout attack. He asks James Wilson to read his remarks, which are addressed directly to the handful of delegates who announced they would not sign the Constitution.

I confess that I do not entirely approve this Constitution at present…[H]aving lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged…to change opinions even on important subjects…[T]he older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment and pay more respect to the judgment of others…I cannot help expressing a wish that every member of the convention who may still have objections to it, would … doubt a little of his own infallibility…and put his name to this instrument.

Franklin speaks down the centuries to leaders. Although the three reluctant delegates were not swayed that day, Franklin captured a key element of great leaders. They all know they make bad decisions sometimes. They know they are fallible and question their preconceived notions.
As our presidential election draws near, the attack ads continue relentlessly, and candidates play fast and loose with the facts, heed Franklin's advice. Celebrate this Constitution and pay more respect to the judgment of others.
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To find out more about this important day in U.S. history, the strategic planning and leadership of the framers, and the wisdom of today's strategic leaders, read Conventional Wisdom: How Today's Leaders Plan, Perform, and Progress Like the Founding Fathers. (This link takes you to a special page for a special offer not available publicly.)