If You Get Hit By A Bus PrincipleWritten by Joan Gerberding
August 20, 2013 # 5:04 pm # Expert Guides, Marketing Insights, Specials # 3 Comments
A company manager once told me “I’m too busy to train people. They just leave anyway — it’s much easier to just do things myself than to have to take the time to train and mentor them.”
Whoa! Huh? You’re a company executive, manager, leader and you can’t/won’t find the time to train or mentor people?! You’re kidding, right?
Unfortunately, not only was this manager not kidding, there are thousands and thousands of managers out there who feel the same way. “It’s easier doing it myself.” “I don’t have time to train.” “If I do it myself, I can do it quicker and I’m sure it’s right.”
OK. Now let’s apply my “If You Get Hit by a Bus Principle:” If you get hit by a bus on your way out of the office, who else knows how to run your company?…do what you do?…keep it running smoothly?…fill in until other arrangements can be made?
See what I’m getting at?
It’s perfectly reasonable if you feel so time constrained and overloaded that it’s hard to make time to delegate, let alone train. But the problem with that, of course, is that the more you do yourself, the more things pile up, so eventually you become the traffic jam that prohibits the company from moving forward. Believe me, I understand. I’ve made that mistake many times in my long career. Training and mentoring people, correcting (or recovering from) their mistakes, and deliberately creating a positive give and take work environment is one of the hardest things great leaders have to do. But do it you must.
When I was being mentored many years ago by several really good managers in a few very good companies, it never occurred to me that I was being “mentored.” I just thought that I was being trained; shown—through words and actions—the right way to do things. But I soon realized that many of the big and small things they taught me, were useful every single day. The things they taught me had become an integral part of who I am in both professional and personal settings. And I still use them today.
Here are the things you too need to consider doing for your staff:
1. Lead by Example: People will always be watching you, so you need to be at your best all of the time. Most people have no training when it comes to knowing how to handle people. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a college course entitled “people management and inspiration.” Your staff members only know how they like to be treated and how others react to the treatment they receive. Look for specific places to demonstrate specific actions.
2. Be a Living Example of Ethics and Good Works: Your staff will typically follow your lead. How you handle people, clients, tough situations, and the way in which you communicate with others, will always set the tone….and the example.
3. Look for Teaching Moments: Use workplace situations to take a staff member aside and ask their opinion, what they would have done, and why they think you handled things the way you did. Real-life examples help people see both sides of an argument and gives them a view into how a manager thinks, reacts and makes decisions. More importantly, when people screw up (and they will), rather than berating them, use it as a teaching moment: “Here’s how you could have handled this differently.”
4. Delegate with Expected Outcomes: Telling someone to do a job or project isn’t ever enough. It’s important to tell them the outcome you expect, then let them accomplish it in their own way. Rather than telling people how to do something, outline what the end result should be and let them figure out the steps to take–unless, of course, the job entails critical steps that have to be followed a certain way. But in most cases, you can lay out the parameters, timeline, budget, and as exact an expected outcome as you can. This not only empowers your staff member, it also makes them “own” the job or project and take pride in its outcome.
5. Allow Mistakes: You’ve made them, too. Probably some real doozies! If you don’t allow mistakes, you’ll never help people grow.
6. Don’t Be Selfish: You’ve most likely hired well-trained employees that, in many cases, others have trained for you. Be willing to do the same. Sometimes that means re-training staff who have not been taught the above principles. Remember, no one stays at a job forever, especially these days. People leave when they’re unhappy, if they’re not empowered to use their brains or creativity, or when they see no room for growth or advancement in their careers. Delegation and training are part of their growth and maturation into better places. Sometimes they’ll leave because they need to know they can do it on their own in a different job. And, hey if you’re lucky, sometimes they’ll stay because they’ve learned to love their job and their bosses.
Every company, every industry has a huge need for leaders who can train, delegate, mentor, and offer opportunities for their employees to grow. If you care deeply about the future of your company, it’s critical that you help others make the giant leap to success. And if you need to practice these steps until you get them right, watch out for buses along the way.