I remember the excitement I felt the first time I sat behind the wheel of a car. I was about to embark on an adventure in my mom’s best friend’s red convertible. My confidence level was soaring as I started the engine eager to experience this rite of passage into teenhood.

I was instructed on the basic functions of the car; enough to be dangerous. No less than a block after beginning my journey I took that shiny new red convertible and drove it right into a huge boulder, costing my mom’s friend a lot of money and heartache. Thankfully, no one was injured; I was only going 15 mph.  The only thing hurt was my pride.

As you can image, I was upset, my confidence and ego shattered, and felt terrible for my mom’s friend who footed the bill for repairs. In my upset emotional state of mind, I will never forget what she said. She told me “Have you ever received driver’s training?” to which I replied that I had not had any formal training on how to drive yet. She responded to me, laughing, “Well then how were you supposed to know NOT to drive with both feet?”

How was I supposed to know? I had never sat behind the wheel of any car, and given her experience as a driver, it was an assumption that I knew not to drive an automatic with two feet.

That is a lesson I will never forget.

All too often, we as humans, make assumptions about what other people know how to do and assume it is just “common sense.” There really isn’t such a thing as common sense because even those things that we consider to be obvious or common knowledge had to be taught and learned at some point. In reality, we come into this life knowing nothing and rely on our caregivers to survive. Over time we observe, copy behaviors, make mistakes, and learn to do things for ourselves independently.

When it comes to the world of work, we have to recognize that adults come into organizations with knowledge, experience, and habits that have been learned through their upbringing, education, and practical work experience. However, it is a leadership failure to assume that employees come into the workplace with the same concepts, ideas, and work habits established in an organization. We must invest in our leaders to provide them with the tools to lead themselves and their teams.

New leaders are promoted and accept roles to lead departments, teams or companies, for a variety of reasons.  Many have been strong individual contributors, and yet they may lack the fundamental leadership skills to effectively communicate, set boundaries, delegate, and resolve conflict. They have shown great technical acumen in their jobs so why not promote them? They came from another company and have leadership experience so why not just throw them in?  Being a technical expert is very different than leading a team through the day-to-day routine, much less a difficult interpersonal situation. One day you are “turning the wrench” and the next you are making sure the person turning the wrench is taken care of. Similarly, a new employee with leadership experience may not have been trained and may not have had effective guidance and leadership. In some organizations, front line leaders are primarily individual contributors who only assign work and manage schedules. If there is such a thing as a safe assumption, it is the assumption that newly promoted or hired individuals need training.

One of the challenges for most companies is the budget for training. “Where does the money come from and how much do we allocate?” is always one of the first questions asked. The challenge in gaining buy-in for allocating funds towards training is that training can seem intangible. The tangible benefit to providing the training is that the organization has fulfilled its responsibility to ensure leaders have the necessary foundation to execute their jobs effectively. Without the training, the risks and costs are much higher. A good way to quantify the benefits of training is to evaluate the costs of legal claims, discipline and performance issues, turnover, worker’s compensation claims that could have been avoided, the number of sick days and other absences that may be attributed to leadership challenges, etc. The costs that can be potentially mitigated by effective training can be quantified and it is the best way to gain buy-in for foundational training.

Back to my story.  I learned a lifelong lesson through crashing that pretty red corvette. I learned that I do not intrinsically know how to do things that are second nature to other people. I learned not to beat myself up for not knowing what I had never been taught nor experienced and that a little grace goes a long way.

I have carried into adulthood the lesson to take advantage of every learning opportunity to help develop skills on a variety of topics.

Every organization has a budget, as well as goals and objectives. Where in your list of goals is developing your employees? Spending resources on developing your employees through leadership training in Santa Rosa does not immediately impact the bottom line, but investing in your team will empower them and will increase productivity.

I would like to leave you with a few questions.

What have you done to provide your employees/managers professional development?

What training plans exist in your company already?

If you could have a team that was empowered and productive, could you find the budget to provide them with the training they need?

The Personnel Perspective is a full-service management consulting firm specializing in human resources, leadership development and training, and recruiting.  The firm’s core belief is that a company achieves organizational excellence through its people.  Contact us to learn more: (707) 576-7653