First, I want to share real life scenarios from my life conducting training classes in corporate America. Second, I want to share the impact some choices are having on your teams, and finally I want to give you suggestions on how to do things differently.
The class starts and teams are gathered around tables ready for the day. As the consultant, I have spent time learning about this team and the organization to prepare for this session. I’ve worked to understand the context of how the material will achieve a change in behavior meant to improve something in the organization.
The leader kicks off and tells the room full of people how excited they are about this program and what it can do for the organization. There are varying degrees of interest sprinkled with a few skeptics around the room. After all, people are busy and being in this training means their work isn’t getting done. They either see this as an opportunity or a disruption. My job is to help them connect the content to the work so they get a return on investment for their time.
The coffee is starting to kick in and the class kicks off. After the leaders inspiring introduction to the day people start to engage. Discussion and interest starts to emerge. Robust discussion starts to rise about real issues. I’m working hard to uncover real issues because context matters far more than the content I’ve brought into the room.
Just as the conversation gets rich, and the teams are digging in to solve problems, they look up to see how the leader is responding to this truth that has been uncovered. Then it happens. They look over their shoulder and see an empty seat where the leader once was.
That’s when the energy in the room deflates and people go back to checking their phones under the table. That’s when the skeptics roll their eyes and start bringing all the reasons why these ideas won’t work back into the conversation.
I then dig in to inspire people to look for the value, in spite of their leaders absence. It’s an unspoken shift but one that needs no words. The shift is palatable.
When you as the leader the leave the room this is what you say to your team:
I’m too busy to be here, you’re “busyness” however isn’t all that important to me.
I’m more important than you.
You’re the problem. If you stay here to “get fixed” with training, we can get the results that we need.
None of these may be your real feelings, but it is the perception you have left with your team.
I know this can be hard to hear. You ARE busy …. you wanted to be there…. but ….
The project ….your boss ….the customer …… the _________.
I get it. And the consequences of leaving the room are far greater.
So what can you do?
- Check your mindset. Do you have some of these beliefs mentioned? Do you want them to get fixed? Do you feel more important? Dealing with mindset is the starting point.
- If you’ve attended this training already, give them the specifics of what you learned and how you’re applying it. Tell them you won’t be in the session but you want their feedback and you’ll be asking them in the next meeting how you can all work together to apply the concepts.
- Stay in the room, listen and observe. This is your opportunity to hear their concerns and needs. You’ve asked them to step away from their busy jobs to dig in and participate. See this as a real opportunity to invest in your team by listening and observing.
- Please don’t answer every question or get defensive in the room. This shuts things down. Listen, let the day play out. Let your team invest and dig in. Let them answer some questions “wrong” or differently than you without responding. Learning requires people to be uncomfortable and sometimes that means voicing things that might not be the right answer in the moment but then learning the better answer through the process.
Training isn’t always the answer, when it is, see it as an investment. Look for ways to capitalize on this investment. As your consultant, I desperately want this to be valuable for you and your team. Let’s discuss how to maximize our time together. Getting them in the room is the first step. What happens in the room and the days and weeks after is where return on investment begins.