When we put together management training, we like to involve potential participants in the design. This co-creation approach has some real benefits – participants are engaged early on, and we can understand precisely what their management challenges are, which ensures that training is tailored to meet their needs. We also find out what their teams are like, and what approach might help them best.

These benefits were highlighted to me again recently by one particular participant. Let’s call him Bob.

I first met Bob a couple of years ago. In a focus group of about 20 people, he told me “Management programmes are for softies,” and he was sick of being told to go on “useless training” every few years. As a manager in a large technical business, responsible for a team of 12 engineers, Bob was clear his job as a manager was to get the engineers out in their vans, performing checks, providing repairs, and ensuring safety standards were met. He had a set of hard KPIs he needed to meet every day, and he was meeting them. Therefore, Bob asked, what could he possibly learn on yet another management development programme, other than “how to speak management and all that management jargon?

While it wasn’t sensible to design the training around one person, Bob’s scepticism did make me think even more carefully about what to put into the programme, and how to address his doubts. The focus of the programme was how to lift the performance of good teams, and make them great. We looked at how to take performance to the next level. To his credit (and, I confess, a little to my surprise) Bob didn’t stint in giving it a go. He attended all six days, spoke up, took part, challenged and got properly involved. As part of the training, he was introduced to the Intelligent Leadership model, and that’s when he really started to see things differently.

Bob’s lightbulb moment was when he realised he was taking only one approach with his team – his experienced, competent team – and the team was stuck in an unhelpful dependency mode. Bob had lots of priorities he needed to deal with. But he was constantly being interrupted by up to 35 phone calls a day from his engineers asking for help, advice and reassurance. Things that need to change.

As part of the programme, we looked at delegation, coaching skills and numerous techniques for empowering teams. Bob took this to heart and started to develop a coaching style with his team. Instead of just answering their questions, he would get them talking and finding their own solutions. And the result? The number of calls reduced, and each took significantly less time.

I saw Bob again recently, at a management review event, and he thanked me for the training. He told me that the change in his management approach means that he now only gets about five calls a day from his engineers – and they are smashing their KPIs. His team has gone from strength to strength.

Well done Bob, you management softy!

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Garret Norris

Garret is the founder and CEO of Business Coaches Sydney and through his company, remains dedicated as ever to use his training and real life business experience to meet his passion to see business succeed through disciplined management, creative marketing and committed client service.