John was very excited to learn that the company had decided to promote him to a management position where he would be accountable for about half the store. There were many new responsibilities included leading several other employees. He felt he was ready for the challenge and looked forward to the leadership training he would receive in the company’s training course.
Unfortunately, the training course didn’t really cover anything about how to be a leader. Wondering if he missed something, he talked to his boss about the missing training and was told it wasn’t part of the training he would receive. John commented that he guessed that would come later, but his boss, the store manager, said no, there wasn’t any real leadership training; he’d just learn it on the job. Sort of training by trial and error!
Sounds crazy, but this is actually a true story, though John is a fictional character. Actually, it’s a compilation of cases I’ve seen. I call this leadership malpractice and one doesn’t have to look far to find examples. No one would want to take their car to a shop where the mechanics knew a lot about how the shop was laid out, but were learning how to fix your car by trial and error. Why then do we expect leaders, responsible for the most precious (and by the way, expensive) asset in the company to learn that way?
Maybe it’s the cost. It costs money to train people. True, but what does it cost not to train leaders? A recent study by Rutgers professor Joe Markert, showed that in this era of great worker mobility from one job to the next, many of the people surveyed quit because of their boss. How much will it cost to recruit and train the replacement?
This is a particularly important question for the retail industry which often has stacks of applications for people who are desperate for a job. Of course it isn’t true in all cases, but it does appear that many managers seem to see employees as an expendable asset.
If you provide leadership training to your leaders, great. If not, I suggest you take a look at a few factors about your organization.
First, how is your employee turnover? In companies of any size, even 2 or 3 percent can be costing you a lot of money. Furthermore, do you know why employees leave? Turnover is not all bad, nor is it unavoidable, but it can most likely be reduced by training better leaders.
Next, look at production. Is it where you want it to be? Again, there are several reasons why it might not be, but many reasons can be traced to inadequate leadership.
Third, evaluate employee morale. Do people enjoy working for the company? Do they understand their job and why it’s important to the company’s success? Do they feel invested in that success? Most tellingly, do your employees have at least some respect for their leaders?
If you can honestly give positive answers to these questions, great! If you can’t, then it’s probably time to take a look at how your leaders are trained.
By Ella Milton