An Vital Lesson For Leaders
A lesson in delegating and training
The meeting room was clean and tidy; Training manuals, water bottles, notebooks, and pens were neatly lined up at each place setting. In the back of the room there were tall glasses, ice cubes, cold lemonade and fresh snacks for each of my trainees that afternoon. On the table next to me in the front of the room was a large stack of white paper next to my laptop and projector. The day before we had just started our new eLearning series. It wasn’t your average course library. From stunning graphics and informative charts to videos and technical writing, we had just given them the latest business acumen facts.
Cindy and Karen came in soon. “We’re looking forward to your training,” they called from the back of the room.
“And I’m happy to be with you for a second day,” I shouted.
Within minutes the room was full. When the clock showed two minutes to one, everyone was there except Robert. It was time to start our second day of leadership development on the hour. I distributed clean sheets of white paper to each of the participants. “Fold a paper plane,” I instructed him.
“Oh no! Not a team building exercise,” said Robert when he walked in late.
“Not at all. I just want to find out if you can delegate, ”I fired back. He was obviously confused by my answer. It seemed that his main aim was to gain admiration from others. He often exaggerated his skills and made it sound like he could handle anything the boss gave him.
“I can delegate all day,” he boasted. “What does a paper airplane have to do with it?” said Robert softly.
The thirty or so people in the room started building airplanes when I gave the job without instructions.
“I can’t,” said Jim. “I’ve never done one before,” he complained.
“Just do the best you can,” I said firmly. “I want each of you to fold a paper airplane whether you did it or not.” Then I talked for three or four minutes about my childhood and the fact that my dad made the coolest paper planes I had ever seen. Within ten minutes there were many different types of folded papers from the thirty people present that day. Few resembled a paper airplane that could fly.
I quickly divided the students into groups of five and asked each of them to launch their plane onto the meeting room wall. None of the planes looked like any of the others. And only about six of them flew.
“What was the point of that?” asked Cindy.
“You didn’t even explain how to make one,” added Karen.
“You are exactly right!” I said. “Unfortunately, so many managers and supervisors delegate to their employees,” I continued. And to top it all, we often train people that way too. Telling someone to do something doesn’t train them!
“There are many useful ways to delegate and train,” I said. “But at the beginning I will only share one of them for the time being.” I then went on to say that in order for these leaders to be successful they must learn and follow these 4 steps of delegating and training:
- Work out
“What could have happened if I had followed these steps?” I asked, trying to read the group’s body language.
“We would have built better planes,” insisted Karen, raising her eyebrows. She complained that the best way to learn is by reading detailed descriptions.
“The best way to learn is through demonstrations,” Jim said when describing his department’s on-the-job training program.
“I think his successor eLearning library is great,” said Juan. “I particularly like the videos, technical writing, diagrams, and comments from the study community.”
“Just tell me what you want and I can do anything!” Robert boasted while the others rolled their eyes in disagreement.
The demanding group of managers understood. They obviously didn’t enjoy doing something without the know-how to do it. “Let’s try again,” I said with a smile. “But this time we will follow the steps: explain, demonstrate, practice and evaluate.” So I told them in great detail that we would all fold the same variety of paper airplanes. It was called a classic dart. It was easy to do, and it flew through the air quite effectively. I even gave them written step-by-step instructions with helpful graphic elements.
At the end of the demonstration, we lined up in similar groups, this time with a success rate of about 85%. They could fly and mostly looked the same. Those in the room whose planes were not working received additional assessments and training from their classmates. Linking this simple experiment in class with the real world challenges we faced in business inspired us to solve our group’s training and delegation problems. We developed several successful plans that were later implemented and had a lasting impact on the culture and sales.
Not everyone can delegate effectively
About six months later, Robert, the confident manager, was tasked with helping his new hire, Amy Lynn, with a huge recruiting plan for his department. She had a monumental task ahead of her. No matter how many times Robert told her to recruit, hire, and get the right talent on board, she didn’t seem to be doing it. That’s because Robert couldn’t delegate and train her for this task. Unfortunately, he didn’t know how to do it.
Leadership skills and development
Good employees long for good leadership. Good leaders know how to delegate and train to make their teams successful. We may all have had poor team delegation and training from a leader. It is literally impossible for a boss to know everything (at least in most companies). But if you are in a management position, then your employees look to you for orientation and strength. As a manager, part of your job is to provide your employees with the right information and training from the subject matter experts that they must rely on. Then the manager has to delegate effectively with very specific means.
When management skills are high, and when they delegate and train well, employees often try to emulate a manager’s instructions. Leadership becomes more transparent, skills and know-how increase in service, work ethic increases and employees perform. People learn in different ways; Live training, coupled with great eLearning, games, and demonstrations, encompasses a larger set of learning styles.