Support from the top – Roadblocks/Solutions

Without buy-in from the boss, training is doomed to failure
The company president was convinced his branch managers weren’t as effective as they should be in running their branch operations. He believed they needed better organizational skills and prioritizing of their tasks and responsibilities. In addition he gave their decision-making and problem-solving skills a poor grade.Being an action-oriented individual, he contacted a trainer to conduct time-management and problem-solving workshops for the six branch managers. Unfortunately, the overburdened managers resented the time being taken from their day-to-day responsibilities.
What the managers really resented was the assumption that their problems were training problems. From their view, they did not have enough staff to meet the goals of their branches, communication with the home office was inconsistent and inadequate, and the president continually overrode their decisions. They thought the idea of having someone who didn’t know them or their situations come in and tell them what to do was a waste of their time and the company’s money. In fact, they thought that if anyone needed training it was the president, himself.
Before selecting a training program for these managers, training and non-training issues should have been identified. An outside training consultant can be invaluable in this process. Through interviews, surveys, or direct observation, the training needs can be separated from support needs, systems problems, or communication barriers. When participants’ problems are recognized and solutions considered, they are much more open to learning new ways to be more effective in their own jobs.
Second, the trainer did not have the respect of these managers. Confidential interviews prior to the training would have given the trainer an opportunity to get to know each person and to build credibility for him or herself. At the same time, the branch managers would have felt some “ownership” in the program because they had an opportunity to provide input on the training process.
Finally, the president’s decision to provide training lacked his commitment to support the process. His role is to monitor progress and reinforce positive change. He must hold his people accountable for implementing what is learned; he must hold himself accountable for modeling the leadership and management principles incorporated in the training. The president’s job is to work with his managers to remove the obstacles that prohibit them from applying what they learn.
Solutions to Roadblocks is provided by The Performance Group inc., a Brookfield training and consulting firm. Small Business Times readers who would like a “roadblock” addressed in this column can contact the author, Lois Patton, at 784-2922 or via e-mail at
July 1998 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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