In the training world we spend countless hours designing and delivering training solutions that build competencies in order to achieve levels of results. If we want managers to communicate better we train the necessary skills that enable managers to converse with people so the message is delivered, and is respectful of others.
Yet any learning development professional that has been in the game for a while will admit, selling a training initiative is never a slam dunk. You may have the perfectly designed solution that will pop out the right results and it still falls on deaf ears when getting an agreement to go forward. This is why many of us have learned that the consequences of NOT training should always be part of the communication.
CFO to CEO
“What happens if we train our employees and then they leave?”
CEO to CFO
“What happens if we don’t train our employees and they stay?”
I am sure some trainer came up with this quote as a way to make a point, as I really doubt there is a single CEO or CFO that has ever had this conversation. It does however remind us that not training skills that produce company expectations will produce consequences.
For decades now most of today’s managers have gone without what I call basic communication skills. Very few managers take the time to evaluate the consequences of the words they choose to speak or write and how they will be taken. In a single email, you can instantly kill a good relationship with a fellow employee or staff member that cannot be repaired. Because you spoke unprofessionally, or accused wrongfully, irreparable damage can be afflicted on a fellow human being just because you decided to be a pompous ass at that moment.
I used to train a management development program that began every skill development showing a video demonstration for the wrong way to communicate that topic. I spent more time debriefing the consequences of “the wrong way” to drill in the impact than I did debriefing why the preferred way was better. I found that people understood the right way once they understood why the wrong way didn’t work.
I carried out this process when I managed large groups of people. When I observed inappropriate behavior, or within a string of email noticed a bad choice of words or impression conveyed to another employee, I called out not only what I observed, but the potential consequences of their actions. My staff could expect me to get involved if I saw mistreatment.
At the same time my managers knew I would not accept their bad day being redirected to me. I let them know the consequences of their actions. I’ll never forget one manager who felt it appropriate to misinterpret an email I sent her asking for help with a member of her team that was not doing their job, thus having an impact on me doing my job. She lit me up like a candle in an email, taking “offense” at my choice of words.
Up to this point we had a solid relationship, so I responded that she had interpreted my request for help incorrectly, and that I had not done what she was accusing me of doing. Her reply consisted of a change of tone, immediate help, but absent an apology! No way was she ever going to admit fault and I better get used to it. Two months later I resigned and told her why I was leaving. The consequence of her lack of communication skills was made evident in losing a good employee and keeping a bad one. I’ll never forget the look on her face. (It still wasn’t her fault)
Bottom line, train the skills to enable the behaviors you seek and need. Yet hold managers accountable, even if they are sitting in the C Suite.