Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I know how, why don't you?



"Practice is the best of all instructors "~ Publilius Syrus 

I was recently reading an article in," ESPN the magazine." Sorry ESPN, don't recall which issue. Anyway, an "anonymous" player was stating that coaches with over 20 years experience with the same system would get upset with a 22 yr old, who couldn't learn their system in a few days. That got me thinking. How many times do we, as experienced leaders, get frustrated with our people when they don't pick things up right away?

In my younger days I grew up in a culture that expected you to give it all you got and pick things up quickly. Those who couldn't or wouldn't fell to the wayside, i.e., the galley or trash room. As I came into supervisory and managerial positions I would find myself getting upset when people couldn't pick things up fast. In some cases, I felt that their effort was lacking as well. Sometimes, I would just do it for them instead of waiting patiently or giving them the experience, thus increasing their chance of success the next time. One day I was complaining, OK whining , to one of my chiefs about it. He asked me one simple question, "Did you pick it up the first time?"

All of us felt that we were better then the new kids in the workplace, no that's not a new boy band. We all walked up hill, both ways I might add, to go to school in the snow without shoes. Are bosses where much harder on us, the processes were not as automated or as easy as they are now, I could on and on.....

Realistically, somethings yes, I did pick up quickly but for the most part it was repetitions that made me more efficient at a task. He then followed up by asking, "How did you feel when someone was pressuring you and trying to rush you?"

I didn't like it, not one bit. It didn't help, it made me frustrated and mad. What helped was when someone would guide me through, be there to have my back if I got stuck or was unsure. They would point out the pit falls and gave me encouragement when I figured it out as I went through it.

I think you're getting the point. Don't expect your people to be where you are in relation to experience and  education. There's no way they can have the same experience as you, you have 20 to 30 years of real life experience on them. Try the following steps next time you feel your blood pressure rising:
  • Remember how you felt: Recalling how you felt in a situation for the first time will help you have more understanding for your new, up and comer. If it's a "fire" that must be put out, have the new person go with the experienced person and just watch the first time. 
  • Practice makes perfect: Repetitions are the key. Find time to practice a procedure or process without the stress. Have them review what they need to do, then take them step-by-step through it. Then, step back and have them do it for themselves, while you watch. You will be amazed at how quickly someone picks things up when they are not being pushed and prodded to get it done fast and right the first time. 
  • Slowly add stress and time restraints: Once they become more proficient at it, slowly start to increase time limits and commonly seen or known stress they may have to deal with. Bottom line, enable them to learn in a safe environment.
  • Praise their progress, Mentor their mistakes and have patience: When they get things right, encourage them and give them the praise they desire. When they mess up, go over what they did wrong and why. Then have them try again. Most importantly, stay patient with them. They can't climb the mountain your on in a day, week, month or year. They have to live life and have experience before they will get as proficient as you. If you've done your job right, you will have mentored another leader to take your place. 
After saying all of this, I can say that the next generations, the one's becoming tomorrows leaders are extremely bright. They have been exposed to much greater technology and at a younger age then most of us have in a lifetime. They are good at copping with change, making fast decisions and have enormous energy. If you want to be able to rest in retirement, do your part and mentor them today. 


Ask yourself the following questions, please leave your answers in the comments section. Thank you.

When you were new to the workforce, did you do it right the first time? 

How did you feel when there was a lot of pressure to perform a task or process that you had little experience with?

What can you do better, as a mentor, to develop your replacement?


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2 comments:

Bobby Ballgame said...

Good stuff, Greg. I like your thought process.
I think you're also talking about what I call the "honeymoon period" for a new person with whom I begin to work/associate. For the first couple months (or maybe "few" months, depending on specifics and requirements of the position), the new person can do no wrong, and is in a learning relationship with a mentor. After all, someone had good reasons for bringing the person into the organization, so why start by finding a way to fire them.?

Gregory Farley said...

Bobby,
You make a valid point. I believe the "Honeymoon period" is short in nature in most organizations. We tend to forget that as our "Top performers" move up they face new challenges and processes that they've never had to approach from a management point of view. Everyone needs to be mentored and taught, no matter what level you are at in the company. Of course, the newer you are, the more mentoring you will require. Thanks so much for your time and comments.

Wishing you success,
Greg

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