#1 training mistake companies make

Liquids don’t trickle up and neither does managerial skill development.

An effective managerial training project encourages skills transfer to help motivate employees to be productive and ultimately profitable. To be successful, all levels of the organization must embrace the concepts of respect and trust for creating buy-in.

So why, then, do some companies aim their skills training programs primarily at only the lowest managerial levels? Coaching and managerial skills training programs need to start at the executives to ensure a supportive environment as training rolls out to other parts of the organization.


It’s a waste of time to spend many thousands of dollars on a well-designed program if the trainees encounter resistance from their metrics-only supervisors.

We train managers to lead their teams by developing relationship while keeping a keen eye on their metrics or other measures of success. When the relationship between manager and employees is positive and strong, the employees will tend to want to excel at their jobs. It’s the difference between compliance and commitment.

Compliant employees do the minimum to meet the required success measurements. These employees may feel disenfranchised or disengaged. If they feel any loyalty to their employer, it’s very limited. Generally, the relationship with their management team is weak, unsupportive or negative.maybe-68482

Committed employees may feel a strong connection with their management team. Some are internally motivated regardless of their relationships with their managers but for
other employees, the way they are treated by their managers is the key to their performance levels.yes-68480

The best managerial and coaching training programs encourage developing genuine relationships built on mutual respect, trust and integrity.

This is a dramatic departure from the hierarchical approach of “just do it because I said so and I’m the boss.” This approach may have worked historically but it will not work with the new generation of workers.

No one wants to be treated like a metric.
It’s like being referred to as “the patient” instead of by name.

The point is to get to know the humans behind the metric. A good place to start is to:

  • Celebrate the good things they bring to the team.
  • Provide positive reinforcement while also helping close any skill gaps.
  • Build strong relationships beyond their money-making abilities.

All of this needs to start at the upper levels and trickle…. no, rain!… throughout the organization. Trainees need support and encouragement as they emerge from their programs. Avoid the #1 mistake and make sure your highest levels of management buy-in, and support, the principles of the management training. Train the upper levels first and ensure that their support for the training program is genuine.

Anyone can talk the talk but not everyone can walk the talk.

I’ve been an admirer of Herb Kelleher, Former CEO of Southwest Airlines, ever since I read his book, Nuts. He said, “Your employees come first. And if you treat your employees right, guess what? Your customers come back, and that makes your shareholders happy. Start with employees and the rest follows from that.”


Tip #1: Assume you could be wrong

As a manager preparing for a coaching or feedback session, maintaining a level of trust and respect is crucial. In order to get buy-in for any solution we hope to achieve with the direct report, it’s important to keep tip #1 in mind: “I could be wrong”.


Coaching Tips

Of course, the feedback session should use facts as a foundation, but humans tend to fill in the gaps with assumptions and judgments about what the facts mean.

Here’s an unfortunate example from my management past.

I was a new manager who, at that time, had no managerial training. I managed my team with many of the same techniques I had experienced from my past managers. Not all of those techniques were appropriate or effective but it’s all I knew at the time.

Fact: I saw-let’s call him John-approach his coworker Tracy’s, cubicle, look around and then remove a $20 bill from her desk.

What assumption would you make? When I tell this scenario in my Coaching classes, and ask, what assumption would you make? Invariably students say, “He stole the money.”

Well, that’s the assumption I made too. I wish I had assumed I could be wrong!

I did what my previous managers had done, I took immediate action! I promptly asked Jim to come to my office and asked him why he had taken the money. He looked at me as if I had slapped him.

He told me the group had gone out for drinks the previous night and he had paid for Tracy’s drinks. They had decided she owed him $20. She had told me that she would leave the money on her desk and if she wasn’t there, he should go ahead and take it.

Where I had assumed he was looking around to see if anyone was watching, he was in fact looking around to see if she was nearby. Where I assumed he was an opportunist stealing money from a coworker, he was collecting on a debt.

I violated trust and respect that day and I never made that mistake again.

It’s natural for humans to fill in the gaps with assumptions and interpretations for what a fact or behavior means. We do it all the time. Being aware of this short-cut to daily interactions is step one to ensuring a respectful and successful coaching session. Look at the facts and then ask questions with an open mind. You may learn that the assumptions you made on the facts you gathered are incorrect.

If you assume there could be another version of the truth, you will give the other person a chance to tell you what happened and why they did what they did. It’s a lesson I will never forget.

In Tip #2: Name it I’ll share another helpful coaching idea.

Caryn Colgan
Good Spirited Consulting Co