Some years ago, in a meeting, I learned that something was going awry as it pertained to a process that was being followed by a group of people I’d only met a week before. When I got back to my office, I decided to talk to the people who, I figured, would have noticed the error. As I was talking to them and asking about the error, I fully expected someone to be as incredulous as I was. Then one of them said “We don’t know anything about that sort of thing”, and the others agreed.


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via Pixabay

I was stunned, but only for a quick moment. I had fallen into a trap, something that I try to tell others to guard against, and proved that even someone who teaches certain principles might get caught off guard. I had assumed that just because people were following a process for a very long time that they had knowledge that it turned out they didn’t have, or wouldn’t have, because they never had a reason to learn it.

When I was a leader, I had regular meetings where we went over the processes my employees did on a regular basis to see if anyone was doing something different or noticed there was a problem. My employees knew what to expect because I’d trained them to be perceptive and to ask questions when needed.

It turns out that’s rarer than I thought at the time. Many leaders feel their employees should just automatically learn things once they’ve been shown a few processes.

The truth is that when you show an employee how to do certain things, you pretty much cover the majority of what they’ll ever have to learn to do the job, even if that majority is only 51% of what they should know. A few employees will want to know more in order to be better at their jobs, with a hope at promotion down the line. The rest will do as they’ve been taught, be average but necessary workers, and put the blame on you when you find out there’s something they don’t know.

They’re not wrong; it’s your fault as the leader. It’s always management’s duty to make sure that the people who do the job know everything about the job that they might encounter. The more an employee knows, the better they’ll perform, and the better they’ll make you look. A well trained employee rarely bothers you, rarely makes mistakes, and might even find better ways to do the work, which benefits everyone.

In the structure of a large organization, the layers can be so vast that it’s not inconceivable that every person along the way doesn’t know every single thing about their jobs. Even those at the very top rely on others at times to keep them abreast of things.

But on a smaller level, as in one department, no matter how large or small it is, leaders need to take charge of making sure that everyone’s trained as well as possible. They can leave it up to supervisor’s if they’re available, but it falls back on them to verify the training, make sure there are procedure manuals, and know the work themselves so they can go to anyone, ask questions, and determine whether something needs to be changed or taught more thorough.

Real leaders don’t have to know everything, but they need to make sure their employees know as much as possible. You never know when the unknown suddenly becomes the problem that needs to be solved.
 

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