Recently I had the opportunity to reflect back upon all of the training I’ve received in order to become the leader that I am today. In my career I was extremely fortunate that I received a significant amount of management training before I was even considered for promotion into the role. I find the coaching of potential, junior, and mid-level managers to be critical to longer term success. Even as a senior manager I believe that it is important to continue learning, and to not always fall back on previous experiences.
Early in my career I worked for a company that had a mandatory training and assessment course for all potential managers. It identified if someone was ready to manage people, and the areas in which they were weak and strong. This was a course that could be failed and a person wouldn’t be promoted to a management position if it was. I remember this class as being very stressful. There were timed prioritization of work assignments, interviews, and video taped role playing exercises in which instructors acted as difficult subordinates and customers. This course started my foray into management.
I’ve also had some training that wouldn’t be classified as management training, but it helped me become a much better manager. One form of this type of training that I received is often dismissed by staff as being irrelevant – and that is diversity training. I found it helped me understand how to be sensitive to race, religion, and gender as well as realizing that different people have different motivations for what they do. Engineers may seem to all be very similar but in fact they are not. You can’t expect someone to want to do the same things that you want to do for all the same reasons. Some people care about money, some about life balance, and some about challenging work or career development. I find this to be key to being a good manager because by understanding what a person’s motivations are, you can assign them work that they can be successful at. This training course also was very clear about what is and what is not appropriate in a work environment. In a similar vein, I also took a class that included the Meyers-Briggs Inventory. This was an eye opener for me because it showed how much diversity there is in the various personality types and how the different types are perceived. It also provided suggestions for how to deal with the different types. In engineering there are a few common ones, but there are always some people that are different and harder to read and work with. I happen to be an INTJ in case you are familiar with this method of personality evaluation.
As my career progressed, I signed up for more intensive training courses that spanned longer periods of time. Another company that I worked for footed the bill for a year long class that required me to travel to San Francisco monthly. This program was designed for high potential women managers with a minimum of 7 years of supervisory experience who were being groomed for senior management positions. The program and others like it are run by an organization called Women Unlimited. If you are a woman manager or if you have one reporting to you, I’d suggest investigating this. I found it to be one of the most useful training programs that I ever attended.
Once I got to Director and VP level positions my training focus changed. Now I find it to be a lot more self-directed and individualized. I continue to read books and articles voraciously to learn about new trends and ideas. For the last few years at my last company I met weekly with a psychologist who works with leadership teams at small companies as a career coach. He taught me to depend not only on my analytical capabilities but also on my intuitive abilities. He also taught the leadership team as a whole to be more focused and to use empathy in dealing with one another as a way to speed resolution of issues. This was invaluable. A lot of times in business we focus solely on the analytic and reasoning aspects of our work and little on the people and relationship issues.
These days I also enjoy sharing the knowledge that I have accumulated. As those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know, last year I presented at the IGDA Leadership Forum. I enjoyed preparing my presentation and sharing my management experiences so much that it compelled me to start this blog and become more active in the Web2.0 world. There are a number of pages on this website that give management instruction through examples. I also frequently post and comment upon interesting articles and topics that are personal growth, business, and management related. I am experimenting with the use of twitter to share additional articles that I find interesting that I don’t necessarily feel the need to comment about. I have a regular following on both of these mediums, and it is growing. This is really cool.
Keep on learning. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like you have enough time or that it is worth the effort involved. Do it, you never know when what you’ve learned might come in handy.