Leading by Training Others

    Leaders, by their position, are trainers. This important task is often overlooked by leaders particularly in larger organizations with training divisions. However, leaders are always responsible for their followers work and on-the-job behaviors, so they better be prepared to train them.  

Even when leaders are not training others, they are. Everything leaders do sets an example for others to follow. People begin to understand what behaviors result in recognition. Your behaviors demonstrate what behaviors are recognized. Photo by Nappy from pexels.com CC attribution.

    The purpose of training to create or change behaviors by influencing people work or behave in ways acceptable to the organization. One of the most basic training events is new employee orientation.  Orientation sets the stage for employees to conduct their activities in accordance with the organization’s documented procedures. In many organizations someone from human resources conducts new employee orientation. While this process serves to ensure all new people understand the company’s culture and expectations, only the leaders in each office, branch, or division can provide those employees with the expectations in their part of the organization. The best definitions of leadership include descriptions of influencing others, providing motivation, sharing a vision or improving the organization. Leaders who take time to train people do all these things.

    Frequently organizations introduce change by providing some sort of training program. The training describes the desired change. The goal is for employees to understand the new philosophy and provide the skills required to complete new processes. Frequently formal leaders are called upon to conduct the training but not always. How the trainer presents the material either improves acceptance and success or results in rejection of ideas by employees. Training presented passionately increases success and the trainer’s profile with senior leaders.

    Some organizations select high performing workers to receive training about changes then train the rest of the organization. Selection as an instructor gives line workers an appreciation for the vision of the organization’s top leaders. Using lower level employees as trainers has additional benefits. Those employees become in-house subject matter experts in the theory and process behind the change. They learn how to present ideas to influence others to change behaviors. They provide an opportunity for an organization to see how potential future leaders perform when given leadership tasks. The other employees view the trainers as leaders.

   Selecting peer trainers is an important task. Employees selected to become trainers take a few steps up the company ladder. This new position improves their view of the internal workings. Employees who learn to successfully influence others in a positive fashion demonstrate they are ready to become leaders. Their actions help implement the change senior leaders seek to implement. 

     Trainers learn more about the organizational culture. They help senior leaders determine if those employees’ knowledge, skills, and abilities align with future leadership position requirements. Smart employees seek ways to open doors like opportunities to teach and train to prepare for greater leadership roles. Employees may be unaware their desire to teach marks them as future leaders. Many managers overlook training ability when leadership positions become available. Do not overlook them.

     Not all organizations rely on in-house assets to provide training and implement change.  Many look outside and hire consultants. There are times consultants and outside trainers are necessary such as when fielding a new piece of equipment or implementing a new leadership program in a growing company without a training office. If you find it necessary to look outside for training, remember those consultants become leaders in your organization. Check their backgrounds before letting them have access to your vital human resources. Make sure they have a track record of doing what they say they do. It amazes me how many organizations hire outsiders to teach leadership. The consultant comes in for a short period of time, presents the material, then leaves and may never be heard from again. This type of training rarely is effective.

Anyone who teaches is a leader. The instructor may be an established organizational leader, an expert with no leadership title in the organization, or an outside consultant. Regardless, trainers influence others to change their behaviors so they are by default leaders. Photo by rawpixel.com from pxhere.com

    If you hire outsiders to teach your people a skill or ability, insist on periodic return visits to reinforce the lessons learned. This is important even if the training is for some sort of new technology or process. When the consultant periodically returns, it provides your people with the chance to improve their skills. If you hired the consultant because they are a real expert, you people receive more and change more with each exposure to that person.

     This principal also applies to trainings you select your people to attend outside the company. A school or consultant should offer some sort of follow up for their training. This enables your employees to reconnect when they run into some sort of problem. Several training models require students to attend training a few days each month and then return to their work place. They return to the school periodically to discuss how what they learned in earlier lessons worked out in the real world. The experts guide and mentor students to be more effective.

     Examples of such training programs include any of the apprentice programs in the building trades. Apprentices work for a master for months and years. The master teaches the apprentice a new skill then allows the student to practice. The master looks over the shoulder of the apprentice making corrections as necessary. As the apprentice improves, the master spends less time checking the work. When the student masters that task, the master teaches a new skill.

     The New England Association of Chiefs of Police offers a series of trainings for police leaders. In this model, students attend a week of training and learn several important leadership lessons. They return to their home agencies and apply what they learned over the course of a few weeks. Students check in with their teachers and each other to learn how to make corrections and improve their skills as they actually apply them to real world problems. The students return to the school after a few months to report successes and learn a new round of skills.  The periodic interaction with experts and application to real world problems allow those student leaders to become expert leaders much the same as the building trades apprentices.

Never stop learning. After three decades of leading others the author is seen here attending a year long training program for children advocacy center leaders. The lessons learned here will be transferred to others using the techniques and methods shared throughout this blog.

   Leaders influence organizational culture and behavior by training. Learning to train others provides junior employees opportunities to show their leaders they possess skills to influence others. They learn to communicate important ideas and concepts. By creating quality training programs, trainers help management introduce organizational changes. Standing in front of the crowd provides the trainer a spotlight to demonstrate their ability to their leaders and for leaders to influence others. As a leader you are a trainer in your organization. Change a life; change your organization; take time to train others and become a leader.

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