Not long ago I attended a corporate training course on supervision. It was led by a good instructor, Heather Hughes of HH & Your Company (in the interest of full disclosure, I’ve done some freelance work for Heather separately, though I have absolutely no role in contracting with her for training courses).
As far as training courses go, it was pretty good. But there were two standout items that I took away. The first was the great use of video as a training aid. This is saying something, since anyone who’s watched any type of training video knows they are usually useless. We, instead, were treated to “I’d like a word with you: the discipline interview” by Video Arts, a company co-founded by John Cleese of Monty Python fame.
With John Cleese on board, you know that it’s going to be good. And it is.
Watching the video was especially interesting to me since I’m currently leading a large video project. We are developing three videos for our largest client to be used, at least initially, as part of their annual general meeting–they will also make their way to the web and DVD. These videos aren’t “training videos” (those are still in very early development) but more like a commercial series promoting the value of membership in the pension plan. I’m only days away from getting final script approval, then we enter the next phase of the project, which promises to be challenging and fun. But the use of the medium as a tactical communications tool is what truly fascinates and excites me. I’ll blog more about this project as we move forward, so stay tuned.
This is unchartered territory for my organization, and I’m happy to be leading the way. And as I help introduce innovative ways of communicating I’m looking forward to more creative projects.
The second take-away was a thought on why people actually quit their jobs. The instructor explained that people don’t just up and quit their jobs. Instead, what people quit are their supervisors. This really stuck with me. Upon hearing it I couldn’t help but think about the supervisors in my career and what separates the good from the bad. It’s difficult to pinpoint one or two attributes that make a great supervisor. But they are definitely easy to spot if they fail at the task. They are usually disinterested, focused on themselves and their career, determined to impress their own superiors (often at the expense of those around and beneath them) and, critically, they don’t support their staff.
Not supporting your staff is a killer. A person will come to you for action only so many times. They quickly realize that either you’re oblivious or that you ultimately lack the backbone to take action, and both path leads to nowhere. Or, another way this manifests itself is a supervisor who in the presence of superiors undermines or unfairly represents staff. All it takes is doing this once in the presence of a staff member and respect is lost. And once you’re no longer respected by those you are meant to lead, well, there’s hardly a point in showing up anymore, really. Your unit suffers. Your branch suffers. Your organization suffers. And ultimately, your clients suffer.
At any rate, upon reflecting on the course and the supervisors who have crossed my path over the years, I know that being a good one takes some work. As for me, I’m up for the challenge.