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Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Volume 16 | # 380
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Never miss a good chance to shut up. » Will Rogers

Training the Trained

A buddy of mine recently shared that he was having a friendly debate with his boss about training. He believes that his boss is committed to training new employees but isn't nearly as committed to ongoing (or repeat) training for existing employees.

It got me thinking about how that holds true in so many organizations. Sales and service training is something you "go through" while new on the job. Once you've completed it, you check the box, and you're pretty much done.

I'm reminded of a comment a professor made ions ago that cracked me up and sticks with me to this day. I worked part-time jobs throughout college and immediately went to work fulltime after graduation. Years later, I entered an MBA program.

At first, I wasn't thrilled about sitting in a classroom again. But something interesting happened. I soon found that I had a new perspective and appreciation for business classes than I did in my "younger days".

The mix in most of my courses seemed to be 75% career-students and 25% folks working fulltime jobs. Debates frequently erupted whenever an always-been-a-student threw out some genius comment (or complaint) about "corporate America".

After one particularly inane comment, our professor (a former business owner) laughed and said, "They shouldn't let you guys take these courses unless you can show you've ever actually run anything… or at least received a W2 in your life."

His point was that many of the topics he discussed and practices he explained were hard to grasp by folks without some experience in the business world. Over the years, I've frequently been reminded of that fact when conducting seminars.

More often than not, it’s veteran employees who have the most "A-ha!" moments during any given session. Certain observations and suggestions only seem to truly resonate once you have experience under your belt.

Want to test that? Pick up a favorite business book you haven’t read in a long time and reread a chapter or two. Almost always, you'll be reminded of something you'd forgotten or pick up something "new" and useful the second time around.

No one doubts that training new employees pays off. But you might get as much (or more) bang for your buck investing in your veterans as well.

What's Your Message?

I recently sat down and watched the second half of an L.A. Lakers and Miami Heat game with one of my sports-crazy sons. Truth be told, neither team is a particular favorite of mine.

The Heat apparently forgot who they were late in the game and pulled out a victory. (I jest. I jest.)

I didn't give another 5 seconds' thought to that game or its participants until the next afternoon. While scanning a sports site, I noticed an article about Kobe Bryant's "message" to the Heat. At first I thought it would be trash-talking.

When I clicked over, the story I read impressed me. But after reading it, I was convinced that the author may have missed who the message was actually sent to.

After the game was over, the stands had emptied, and the teams had left the building, Bryant headed back to the court for a 90-minute workout. Three Heat ball boys fed him basketballs as he pushed himself by running around and taking hundreds of shots from everywhere on the court.

A Heat security guard said he had never seen such a thing before. NBA players sometimes get in workouts in their own facilities after a game. But visiting players are usually long gone – on a plane, in a hotel, or out on the town after a game.

The Heat staff ended up waiting on Bryant to close the arena.

The column's author expounded on how this move was meant to send a message to the Heat about how hard Bryant was going to work to keep the title. I also heard a Miami-based reporter criticizing the move as an attempt to take attention off of a loss.

(Well, okay. Like that's a bad idea?)

But reading about the unheard-of individual postgame practice on another team's court, I couldn't help think this was more of a message to the rest of his team.

Nobody has ever accused Kobe Bryant of being an inspirational leader with his words. He appears to be pretty self-centered and doesn't suffer weak efforts or non-performers gladly. (An older guy named Jordan fit the same description, by the way.)

But when the leader of a team is far and away the hardest worker on that team, inspiration is as likely to be found in his actions as in his words. And when a leader puts his actions where his mouth is, the words he does speak carry far more weight.

If you didn't say a word this week about the things you'd like your team to do to be successful, would your personal actions say all that you need to?

Business? That's easily defined. It's other people's money. » Peter Drucker

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of any affiliated entities or sponsors.
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