Leadership the Key to Training
In my callow youth I had the privilege of wallowing in mud, choking on dust, and enduring insults and inane commands from the mouth of my drill instructor, whose unenviable task it was to turn me and 29 other miserable scum-sucking civilians into Marines.
His name was “Sir,” followed very quickly by the rest of his name, “Yes Sir.” And it was only after I had graduated from his care, that I found that he had other names… Sergeant Daly and even Ralph to his contemporaries, whose ribbon-bedecked tunics sported three chevrons perched on two or more rockers.
During the 12 weeks he had us in his charge, he provided us with daily doses of training on subjects running the gamut from safety and leadership, to making up a tight bunk and killing enemies, but to tell the truth, whatever they were, no matter how important to our well-being, or how enthusiastically they were presented, the words themselves were lost almost as soon as they were spoken. What was not lost was who and what Sir Yessir was and, the intensity of our desire to accomplish whatever tasks he set before us.
What was not obvious at the time was that Sergeant Daly was not the be-all or end-all of the training effort at Quantico. Indeed, he was the next-to-last link in a chain that ran unimpeded to the commandant of the Marine Corps himself (the biggest Sir Yessir this side of the Styx as far as we were concerned) whose presence was felt at each succeeding level right down to ours, so while we might not have been able to articulate it, there was no doubt that Sir Yessir’s authority came from the top.
Sound corny? Perhaps, but if you look beyond the obvious objectives of training, you see the development of a bond and that what separates teachers from presenters lies less in their linguistic skills than the line of authority they represent…and why such distinctions are important.
If, like the commandant, you sit at the head of an organization—be it a corporation, waste authority, or a task group of a larger entity—it’s up to you to set not only the goals and objectives for the operation, but the tone for how these are to be accomplished. So let’s look at several functions of your training efforts that go beyond their immediate purpose and impact the very foundations of your enterprise.
- Maximizing your human capital—Not only are your employees your most important asset, but they are also a depreciating one that needs continuing investment to help them achieve their maximum potential.
- Increasing productivity—Productivity is not a commodity, it exists in the experience, dedication, and knowledge of your people. If you don't continually educate your staff, where do you expect increases in productively to come from?
- Reducing nonproductive supervisory effort—Correcting mistakes or solving problems come at the cost of time better spent in positive pursuits. While ongoing training can help your people stay focused on their tasks, perhaps the more important element here is the development of a team spirit.
- Retention—Recent studies show that organizations that fail to train their employees are more than three times as likely to lose them. Moreover, if a current team member decides to leave, it costs an average of $15,000 to hire and train someone to take his/her place.
- Financial bottom line—Organizations that offer comprehensive training achieve a substantially higher return on investment on their employees’ performance than those with less comprehensive training.
There are countless books and seminars on the mechanics of training, and a thousandfold more on the areas on which trainers focus, but the most effective training is only partially verbal, the critical aspects resting instead in the persona of the leader, and his/her ability to project a consistent vision to every level of the organization. Where leaders lead, others will follow, after which (as we came to appreciate while humping our footlockers out onto the drill field at 0300 in the midst of a driving rainstorm) training proceeds as a beholder’s rather than a presenter’s art.
Author's Bio: John Trotti is the Group Editor for Forester Media.
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