There are many ways for a leader to train and develop a workforce: teaching, coaching, encouraging and nurturing. However the one form that speaks loudest and is rarely considered a strategy are a leader’s actions.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the actions of a leader are worth significantly more. Leaders are under constant scrutiny from their workforce. They are watched to see how they perform, how they act on a normal busy day and how they react during a crisis.
The workforce no longer performs in isolated cubicles, endless production lines or on impersonal electronic equipment – employees are at minimum connected to each other. They may be focused on the work at hand but they also watch their leader as much as their leader watches them– and employees will tell each other what they see.
When Disneyland first opened in the mid-1950s Walt Disney wrote to his leadership team, “Your every action (and mine as well) is a direct reflection of our entire organization.” Disney was well aware of the fact that his actions spoke louder than any words he might utter – if he did not perform well and constantly raise the bar of excellence neither would his leadership team.
Leaders Develop their Workforce: This isn’t just about training manuals and new employee welcome sessions. It is about hands-on leading and performing by example 24/7 whether at work, at play or at home. People are always observing you. Is your performance up to their expectations – is it up to your expectations? If they follow your example will their performance improve or will it stay the same.
Going to work every day should be approached much like an entertainer who performs on Broadway or a conductor who presides over an orchestra. Every day is a new performance and you need to physically, emotionally and mentally give your best, even if under the stress of a workplace emergency, an electronic communications disaster or a questionable economy. You are the leading lady (or man) and your support cast or team is watching your lead. They will follow in your footsteps, which will either result in a great performance or perhaps one that is not so good, depending on what they see.
A Training Strategy that Exceeds Expectations: First, leaders must realize that training their team, their support staff and their managers is not up to someone else. Just as babies do not come with an owner’s manual, neither do employees. They may have the basic skill set needed to fill a particular job but they need more than a written manual about the company and what is expected of them. And that responsibility rests right on the shoulders of the leader.
TEC is a strategy that is simple, easy and nearly foolproof, if the steps are followed correctly.
Teach – Educate your workforce about your company, your core values and what is expected of them. This is where most businesses miss the greatest opportunity to create employee buy-in and engagement. Provide them a higher sense of purpose such as performing the best concert ever so each concert attendee will remember it for the rest of their lives. Explain how they each have a unique purpose. Explain how the job they perform fits into the overall picture. Explain how the concert might fail without their best performance. Otherwise their job is just another job and performance will remain stagnant at best and disengaged, or even destructive, at worst.
Encourage – Leaders need to model excellence to inspire, and continually raise the bar of their excellence to raise the bar of workforce performance. When educating and developing the workforce, constructive feedback is critical for improvement and to retain your credibility. They need to know you care – about their quality of work and about their needs and expectations. While in their presence, stay actively focused on their behavior, performance and attitude. Be generous with accolades and acknowledgement of accomplishment no matter how small. Encourage and nurture good and improving performance. But don’t stop there. Being actively focused means offering constructive feedback when behaviors occur that need correction or change. Do not wait until a performance review or put off the talk until days later. Passivity means you tacitly approve of the incorrect behavior and the employee’s actions will only get worse, not improve.
Communicate – Communicate consistently, communicate constantly and communicate circularly. You cannot communicate too often nor can you communicate through too many vehicles or venues. However it is the circular communication that is often the missing link in so many organizations that are on the verge of excellence. Circular communication not only means leading by example and modeling excellence, it means obtaining constant feedback from the workforce to make sure what you are communicating is what they are receiving. Have them playback to you regularly what they think you are communicating. Much like a posting on a social media page can be totally distorted and sound very different by the time it is re-tweeted several times, internal business communications can be totally misinterpreted or misunderstood and repeated that way tenfold. Two-way communications can provide many opportunities to solve problems answer questions and inspire. When set up and used properly, it can be the most effective tool in your training strategy.
The TEC strategy only works when a leader models excellent behavior. It is then that companies can create a more engaged and inspired workforce that will eagerly aspire to better performance when following a leader that does the same.
Pat Heydlauff speaks from experience. She works with organizations that want to create an environment where employees are engaged, encouraged and involved, and with people who want to be in control, anxiety-free and confident. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Engage: How to Lead with Power, Productivity and Promise and Feng Shui: So Easy a Child Can Do It. She can be reached at 561-799-3443 or engagetolead.com.