What I've Learned About Effective Management Training
JULY 14, 2021
Success in the new world of work is less defined by checking boxes, and more defined by thinking outside of them.
This shift has inevitably impacted the way we see management: In the industrial economy, management was defined quite literally—managers oversaw employees clocking in and out, completing tasks and adhering to safety regulations. In the knowledge economy, however, the role of management is more nuanced. Managers are not only responsible for overseeing work, but also crafting team culture, teaching hard and soft skills, and helping individual employees flourish.
The bottom line: Modern management is a hard job, and as Steve Dolan, a consultant at 2020 Talent Management, writes, even the most talented employees struggle with it. The solution? If you want great managers (and, subsequently, more engaged employees), you need to invest in teaching great management skills. I recently kicked off a five-month, intensive global management training at Cornerstone, and wanted to share my takeaways thus far on designing a program for real impact.
1) Create Room for Different Perspectives
Management is a multifaceted role. By selecting participants with diverse experiences—whether it's across levels, departments, offices, countries or all of the above—you'll be able to better prepare people for the multiple personalities and situations they'll encounter as managers.
At Cornerstone, our training program includes people from the UK, France, Germany, Australia, Singapore, India and more, and the participants include both new and veteran managers. The rich tapestry of experience and perspective they bring to the table is invaluable; in addition to providing a global understanding, the diverse group gives people an opportunity to collaborate with people they wouldn't traditionally encounter.
But as we learned in the first few months, you can't just bring a group of people together—literally or virtually—and expect magic. You can create a community, but that doesn't mean you've created community. Make sure participants have plenty of opportunities to interact with each other—as a whole and in small groups—and, as a moderator, offer up your own vulnerabilities and problems as a manager in order to make the program a safe space for discussion.
2) Consider Scalability
For a long time, we had two main management trainings at Cornerstone: one for brand new managers and one for experienced managers. Both were two-day, in-person trainings, and went well: They were relatively simple to execute and participants enjoyed them. The problem? The programs were far from scalable.
In our latest program, scalability was a huge influence. The pilot program has two "cohorts" of 14 people each, but as a company of 1,600 employees, we asked ourselves, "How can we eventually expand this to anyone who wants to take it?" The answer was designing the program to be almost entirely online. The new program consists of e-learning courses, TED Talks, an interactive online community, reading assignments and a 45-minute virtual seminar once a month. The only in-person contact is a one-on-one with me three times over the course of the program (which can still be done virtually for international managers).
Additionally, an online program provides more flexibility—we are able to adjust the program prior for each cohort to ensure it's relevant.
3) Think Long-Term
Training is often thought of as something to check off the on-boarding list, but in the case of management training, it needs to be ongoing to have the most impact. In part, that's why we decided to take the long-term approach to our program, designing it like a college course. Every month, we have a theme: 1) back to the basics, 2) time management, 3) situational leadership and feedback, 4) communication and 5) engagement and motivation.
The benefit of a long-term program is that it offers training in practice: Participants can apply the lessons in real-time. For example, one participant had two talented people on their team applying for one job opportunity. The manager shared that she used the skills from our training to communicate to the employee why they didn't get the job in a way that made them feel empowered and inspired to keep improving. The length of the program also provides more opportunity for participants to be "player-coaches." Every month, we select a small group of participants to be discussion leaders, bringing their experience, research and thoughts to the group.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that even managers needs management, and mentors need mentorship: Every employee has a myriad of goals, tasks and behaviors—no matter their seniority. Investing in a thoughtful, integrative management training program will bring out the best in your mid- and upper-level employees, which in turn will bring out the best in your company.
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