Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

From peer to supervisor – Part 9: training and mentoring others

Posted in HR and personnel, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on November 1, 2010

This is my ninth installment in a series on making the transition into management with earlier installments available at Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development (see postings 105, 108, 110, 111 and 113-116.) This posting, to a significant degree, is also a direct continuation of the second in this series with Management and Training Opportunities. There, I focused on training and mentoring opportunities and resources for new managers themselves, in helping them to learn how to more effectively manage and lead. Here I am going to turn this around and discuss the role that a good manager can play in helping the members of their team find and access training and also mentoring resources. And I add here towards the start of this, that I am addressing one of the most important approaches you can ever encounter in more effectively retaining your best employees and in keeping your team organized and effective. This helps the individual people on your team who report to you. This helps your team as a whole. This helps you and the business or organization you work for.

• Know your team members and what they do. This is a fairly obvious point and certainly at the level of their responsibility end points, but develop something of an idea of what information and other resources they need and use too, and even if you do not have hands-on skills in their areas of specialization.
• Ask the members of your team what they could benefit from in the way of training and/or certification, and how this would specifically help them reach their performance goals and priorities. Look both to help them in the here and now, and in preparing for future success on your team as well.
• An immediate objection is often raised at that, with the argument that this can simply mean giving your team members and even your best, the tools they would need to leave and move on. That can happen. Still, most employee satisfaction surveys tend to show that opportunity to perform to fuller ability, and to gain new skills convey both a sense of appreciate from the business, and respect that can outweigh simply getting a bit more base pay would, in overall satisfaction. Happy employees do not leave unless outside forces make that necessary. Unhappy employees are probably already looking for the exit anyway. If these are your best, this approach may be your best available for getting them to stay. I add in that respect that if you start asking what they would need to be more productive and happier on the job, they will tell you.
• Perform your own due diligence, checking with HR to find what training resources are available, wither in-house or through vetted, approved third party providers. Argue the case for your team and enlist the support of your own supervisor here.
• In this, it can be more effective doing your homework before approaching your supervisor, so you can clearly articulate your options and the costs and benefits that specific training and related opportunities for your team would bring.
• If you have a budget that you hold control over that could cover this, still keep your supervisor in the loop and aware of what you are doing and why – particularly as a new and first time manager, and most definitely if you have not reached your first performance review as a manager.

Doing this effectively means communicating effectively and with multiple constituencies. That can and probably will include meeting with your team’s key stakeholders on a regular basis to make sure you understand their needs as they see and understand them. This means openly and candidly communicating with your team members as to what is and is not possible. This definitely means openly and candidly communicating with your own supervisor, so you never avoidably hit them with unwanted surprises. And this means follow through, in really being there and supportive of your team and its members. In this, our employees really are our most important resources, and adding value and a sense of belonging for them helps everyone.

I have written in this series about managing your first crisis as a new manager, and I did so early as you may have even been made a manager to help deal with a crisis. That can and does happen and a first crisis can develop at any time. See Part 3: Managing Through Your First Crisis for a discussion of that set of issues. Crises aside, managers always have to recognize and understand change and the need for change, and how to more effectively lead in the face of this. My next posting in this series is going to delve into change and leading your team into new challenges and opportunities.

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