Whether training has been a focus or “back-burnered”, those you lead still need regular development. For some, training has not been made a priority in the budget and for others the investment is not possible given the current budget, which is not always about money. The amount of time you have budgeted for each person to work on building their skill sets or the amount of time you have to work with them, is also a key factor that can prevent progress in the area of training. But training doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. It just needs to be effective. Building skill sets consistently can be done through mentor programs, small groups, leader one-on-one discussions, lunch and learns, book clubs, or live workshops, online webinars, or live classroom trainings and a wide array of other methods. The truth is a plethora of options awaits the leader who might at times complain about the performance of his or her people. If they’re spending too much time on drama and conflict, training can help with that. If they’re not fully engaged or motivated, training can address much of that and if they’re poor in communication with you or with others, training can definitely show you rapid improvements. But how do you do that when you don’t feel you have the internal resources and can’t afford big expensive external vendors or just don’t have time for it? How do you provide training to leaders when you simply don’t have the bandwidth? Here are three ways to help your managers become better leaders without breaking the bank or resting all on your back.
1. Utilize Webinars and Online Learning
Your greatest retention and skill transfer will be in the live learning classroom training format, however, if a webinar or online learning session is structured well, topic specific, and delivered with interaction, as well as an engaging instructor who doesn’t talk like the teacher in Ferris Bueller, webinars are great solutions. Webinars range in price but are less expensive than live learning. Paid webinars focus more on content whereas free webinars are often selling something larger. In fact, be careful with webinars or online gimmick programs that are free or offer a free demo as you often do “get what you pay for”. High quality webinars also eliminate travel costs and reduce productivity loss with their one hour to ninety-minute time frame. Contagious Companies, Inc offers fifty-six webinars for leaders including those focused on new leaders, leaders with difficult people, and leaders looking to create more engagement. Their Live Webinar Catalog is worth a look for yourself or for enrolling your managers and leaders.
2. Utilize In-House Experts
For training on software or products, in house experts are readily found and can often be called ambassadors during new software roll-outs. For the more complex, less technical skills such as leadership, coaching, communication, or team building, an in-house expert can be harder to find. Look for those who do the skills well that you’re looking to build in others and who are also fairly new to their leadership success or position. Those who’ve done it for years at a high level no longer remember the steps needed to train others in their way of doing things. Also ensure any in-house leadership training experts you use or choose have the credibility with their audience. For example, choose Directors or above to train front line supervisors. Choose Executive VP level leaders to train middle managers. Even if they don’t conduct the entire training, have them be a part of the course to provide the needed expertise, perspective and guidance.
3. Use Structured Mentoring Programs
Perhaps your organization doesn’t have enough managers to fill a live class or not every manager is in need of the same development and training at this time. One way to reduce training costs, but also pinpoint the needs of each leader, is through structured mentoring programs. Create these by outlining the expectations of the mentor and mentee and carefully selecting the participants for each side of the program. Structured leadership mentoring programs work well when each mentor is on the same page about what is expected of them, is clear on the processes used in the mentee’s role, and when all mentors are in agreement with the “right” way to lead based on the culture of the organization. That last piece may well be your biggest hurdle to implementing such a program.
Bonus Option: Book Clubs and Self-Study Resources
Even your non-avid readers who are leaders, can glean significant insight and collaboration experience when they participate in a book or study group kind of program. For example, Make Difficult People Disappear is a book, but also has a self-study ACTION MANUAL that is a guided training program in the form of a workbook. Provide self-study workbooks to those you know have potential and allow their progress through these books show you more about their level of initiative. Encourage leaders to form a book club, pick their favorite reads (in the business category, certainly) and watch how team building and organic leadership occurs among the group who thought they were just getting together to read a book. As a bonus, you also get a closer look at the ideal criteria for your future leaders.
Limited budgets can provoke the feeling that you’re really prevented from doing any training, period. Fear not, there are always options. There are always negotiations with training vendors about what you need and what they may already have or can provide live that may not be as pricey as you think. There are always creative ways to develop others with as little as one hour a week. However, even more often, it is the leader who’s not sure what all might be needed, not sure who to call, and in the grand scheme of things, is putting out the fires of right here, right now with no time left to focus on that nice to have item known as development. The future of your team and your company depends on you having a shift in that perspective. What you don’t develop in your leaders now, you’ll be fixing, addressing, and possibly even fighting against later. Perhaps it’s time we make the time to help our future leaders be better and do better. After all, isn’t that one of our primary responsibilities as a leader?