Training: Don’t Forget to Train Yourself!

While most of my columns have focused on training your technical staff, it is important to remember that managers need periodic training, too.

This is true whether the manager has been promoted from a technical background or was hired directly into a management role. While the specific needs for each type of manager may differ, the need for training does not.
In previous columns, I have discussed the link between training and reducing employee turnover. To be sure, employee training and career development opportunities rank among the highest predictors of retention. But sometimes a crucial link in the training-retention connection is training not of employees, but of managers.

Says Ed Wood, human resources manager at Freedom Plastics: “Supervisory training doesn’t always come to mind right away when you think of reducing turnover. But the old adage is that employees don’t leave companies, they leave their supervisors.”

In her column “Top Ten Ways to Retain Great Employees,” Susan M. Heathfield agrees: “The quality of supervision an employee receives is critical to employee retention. It is not enough that the supervisor is well-liked or a nice person. Starting with providing clear expectations of the employee, the supervisor has a critical role to play in retention.”

Supervisory and management training can take many forms. For those managing technicians and technical staff, keeping up with your suppliers’ latest products is critical.

It is easy for you, as a manager to get bogged down in day-to-day reporting, problem-solving and administrative tasks, and forget the role you fill as the voice of experience for your staff.

While you may not need the in-depth level of hands-on training your technicians require, some kind of “awareness” training on new vehicles, new systems, special tools or diagnostic software can go a long way. It increases respect among your employees when they see you have kept up with the latest technologies, and can also help you see upcoming needs for their training plans.

Beyond technical areas, interpersonal skills such as sensitivity and anger management are trainable to some degree. These skills, once learned and practiced, can empower a manager to help a struggling employee as well as gain his or her respect.

Another key skill that managers—new ones in particular—often overlook is communication.

According to James Hayes, former manager of the American Management Association, “Leaders who are inarticulate make us all uneasy.”1

In this day and age of E-mails and text messaging, many still believe oral communication skills are the best predictor of managerial success. As a manager, you have to connect on a personal level with your staff, your management, other departments, customers and suppliers. Typically, the most solid and lasting connections are made through the spoken word. There are dozens of training programs available on effective communication—from books and CDs to interactive seminars.

Finally, an area in which managers typically struggle is change management. You must always be aware of change agents that crop up in your business—whether technical or market related—and be prepared to assess the impact of that change on your employees.

Successful managers proactively lead change, rather than waiting for change to be thrust upon them. Change management training can give you the tools to do so.

When seeking out management and leadership training opportunities for yourself, the same rules I have mentioned about technical training in past columns apply.

Do your homework on the training provider!

Ask to see course objectives and a brief overview of the training. Make sure the objectives are evaluated at the end of the course, so you can be sure it “stuck.”

Ask about take-away materials the course provides for future reference and refreshers, or any other post-training follow-ups. These can be especially helpful the first several weeks after the training when you are putting your new skills and knowledge into practice.

1 Quoted in Caroselli, Marlene. Leadership Skills for Managers. Copyright © 2000 by the McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.