Do Your New Hires Know Why They Are Here?

Each day I think of a lesson I have learned in life and then I share it on this blog, in case life did not teach you a lesson today. You can borrow mine.

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One of my favorite things in the world is training new hires. I love being the Ambassador to the company culture, watching them learn, and helping them take the next (or sometimes first) step in their career. Maybe my favorite part of training, though, is at the end, when I ask the new hires how I can improve as a trainer.

Of course, I never ask that question directly because people are polite and reluctant to tell you something bad about yourself, especially if you have hiring and firing authority. Instead, I ask them things like, “Looking back at your training so far… if you could, what is one piece of advice you would give to the next group of new hires? What would you want to tell them to help them prepare for a successful training?”

I almost always hear great answers that help me tweak or shape the company culture and training team further. During the last round of training, though, I heard a particular great answer that I thought all leaders could benefit from.

When asked what advice you would give the next group of trainees, one new hire thought about it, and she said, “I would tell them they are here for a reason. Like, ‘we chose you because…’ When I got here, I had to remind myself these people would not have picked me for the job or paid to have me here if they did not believe in me…”

Not only that, but also each new hire was chosen over all the other applicants for the position. They were picked for that specific role because whoever hired them believed them to be the best of the best.

New hires are nervous and anxious–a new job or career is stressful. There is obviously, the stress of whatever came before it (being out of work, working somewhere with a toxic culture, starting a new life, etc.) but there is also the stress of wondering if they have made a good decision. There is the stress of wondering if the company thinks it has made a good decision in hiring them. They may even feel a bit of impostor syndrome (feeling as if you do not deserve your success and soon everyone will figure out you are a fraud–even though you are not).

By sharing her advice for the next round of new hires, that trainee contributed much more than she thought with that sentence.

Now, every new hire will be reminded why they were picked to be on our team, and that we are truly happy to have them there (because we picked them!).

 

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If You Want To Change, You Have To Change

Each day I come up with a lesson learned in life and I share it. Here is today’s lesson.

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We fear change. I know I certainly do anyway. When something seems to be working (an old family tradition, a standardized training program, a ritual for good luck, a habit, etc.) we tend to cling to it, even when it has lost its effectiveness.

Smokers, for example, want to quit smoking, but do not want to change their habits. I would like to lose weight but I don’t want to change what or how or when I eat. Companies want better results but don’t want to change the way they train or communicate with people. It is natural to fear what is different. “Different” means “unpredictable”.

The problem is, if you do not change anything, then nothing will change.

We can not expect better results from old habits. It is true, sometimes we might falter, or even fail, but the difference between accepting “different” is that change brings knowledge, and knowledge brings enlightenment. When you embrace doing things differently, even your failures become foundations for learning how to succeed.

In other words, if you want to change, then you have to change.

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Learn It to Teach It

Today’s Lesson: To be an effective teacher, you must first be an effective learner.

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As a trainer, I believe there is tremendous value in learning and experiencing the thing I am expected to teach. I see many coaches or organizational trainers who think they can enter a business blind and somehow magically command respect and disseminate knowledge.

Before I could teach people how to sell, I had to learn how to sell and experience both rejection and success in that field. I had to become at least marginally proficient at sales (I happen to be better than marginally proficient at sales but that was all I needed to be an effective trainer). It is important to note I did not have to learn to be the best salesperson in the world. If I had learned that, then I would have gone into sales and made a great deal of money as the world’s best salesperson instead of working to help salespeople become better salespeople.

Many trainees have the opposite folly of their trainers–they believe the trainer should be better than anyone else at the skill being taught. That is illogical. If Michael Jordan’s coach was better than Michael Jordan at basketball, for example, then his coach would be on the court enjoying Jordan’s fortune and fame instead of Michael Jordan. The coach’s (or trainer’s) job is not to be better than the people they are teaching. The coach’s job is to find the holes in the game and help the team overcome obstacles as they arise.

Trainers provide the skills we need to improve but to do that, trainers must also learn the basics to earn credibility.

I was reminded of this in a meeting. The person formerly in charge of a team had been recently let go and one of the main reasons why, it turned out, was because he did not understand the duties and responsibilities of the people he was in charge of. He had not gone out into the field and learned or experienced their day-to-day environment and challenges. How could he ever have led them?

One of my first duties, by contrast, was to meet as many team members as possible and spend as much time learning the company’s products, history, and team member roles as I could. In fact, most employees who chatted with me seemed surprised that I could speak to the company’s roots and history better than many of them could, even though they had been with the company longer.

In the meeting, someone pointed out how refreshing it was to hear that I wanted to travel to wherever the teams were and learn what they did. “How can I train them,” I asked, “If I have no idea what they do or how they do it?”

 

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Burning Down The House

Today’s Lesson: When the building is on fire, you don’t wait for a fireman. You grab a bucket of water and get to work until the fireman gets there.

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When your team is not trained well, it sucks. It hurts productivity, adds to your workload, and causes stress everywhere. It puts you in a bad position. Do you hurt productivity further by getting the right training program with the right trainers in place, and launch it at the right time? (Hint: there is never the right program with the right people at the right time.) Do you leverage your resources and stretch your people even thinner while trying to meet customer demands? Or do you wait until an answer arrives, paralyzed by indecision?

Your training program does not have to be pretty or elegant all the time. It just has to exist. “Elegant” can happen later. Choosing training instead of throwing everything you have at meeting productivity demands means not sitting still, spinning your wheels.

I would rather suffer my lumps today and miss a deadline or two by making time for (even mediocre) training if it means tomorrow I have three more people who can produce.

Training is the willpower of an organization or team. How much does yours have?

 

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Get Out Of My Way!

 

Sometimes the best way to help your team is to simply get out of their way. As a team leader, my job (my actual job, not the job description) as I see it, is to be there to remove obstacles when my people believe they are stuck or being prevented from doing what I have asked them to accomplish.

These obstacles can be political–such as being blocked from having needed resources by another team’s department head; philosophical–such as not knowing how to handle an employee morale situation, or sometimes even physical–such as getting my hands dirty and helping to take out the trash or clean the back room).

This year, I realized the senior team members I lead are pretty well-developed. I am lucky enough to have a well-oiled machine of leadership. I have veteran performers that know my style, understand my methods, and are able to take any ball I throw to them and run with it. I don’t have to be there, standing behind them, shadowing them in case they slip or fall. It was oddly difficult, though, to come to that conclusion. I only recently realized I have trained them well and I am now sometimes the obstacle that needs removing.

When you have a capable and confident team (or team member), take away the training wheels.

Trusting the people I trained to achieve the results I commission from them actually frees me up to focus on (or create) other important tasks or new goals to drive the whole team forward.

When you have done your job as leader, recognize your accomplishment and welcome your most accomplished team members as peers that can help move the next mountain instead of as novices still learning to climb hills.

Sometimes the best thing you can do to help your team win is to just get out of their way and let them.

 

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