For Employee Improvement That Sticks, Strive to Transform Instead of Train

By Loriana Sekarski

In today’s “always on” climate, leaders are overwhelmed and overworked. And it seems they’re especially unable to devote time to people-related issues within their organizations. Instead, they choose a quick fix — a temporary patch on the problem. After all, busy leaders must return to their more important work (or what they perceive as such), so any team issues get relegated to the back burner for another day.

But your job function is reflected in your very title: If you’re a leader, you lead people; it’s that simple. And those quick fixes you’ve been relying on? Likely, they’re in the form of simple training or self-help books that address shifts in behavior, not in thinking. Thus, any changes an employee makes probably won’t stick. You must go deeper — beyond training — by transforming your team instead.

What does this look like? It involves changing how an employee thinks about (and responds to) situations to achieve better effectiveness in his or her role. Typically, that requires the following:

• Understand the “old thinking” that’s causing unsavory behaviors.

• Discern why an employee is hanging onto old thinking, even when it’s no longer effective.

• Make a shift to new thinking and practice behaviors associated with it.

Transformation Is Possible; It Just Takes a Different Type of Effort

Consider this example about a leader I once coached: Insistent upon tackling several company responsibilities on his own, he refused to rely on other departments for help. So while he worked well with his subordinates, that wasn’t the case when it came to collaborating with peers outside his department. Getting tasks done himself (and putting in long hours to do it) worked well for a little bit, but he’d always hit a point where another team’s expertise became necessary. So he’d pull others in for the task, resentful from the get-go. “They slow me down,” he’d think. “I can do this on my own.”

This almost cost him his job.

Off he went to leadership training. Surely, that would do the trick — but to no avail. He made some minor changes, but when stress levels inevitably rose again, he reverted back to old ways. To spur real change, coaching (along with accountability) was necessary. So we identified the leader’s root issues (he didn’t feel comfortable building relationships and felt doing a task himself was the only way to get it done properly) to achieve something training couldn’t hold a candle to: transformation.

We continued uncovering what was really keeping him from team collaboration, and doors started to open. The leader discovered people outside his team did, in fact, have valuable input. Additionally, he became more willing to build relationships across the business. As he transformed, so did his performance and career possibilities. As a result, he was mentoring other leaders within a year.

Transformation is possible. Here are the first steps of that journey:

1. Realize training is a tool, but it doesn’t always get the job done. Training is useful when you want to impart knowledge or teach …read more

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