04 Aug Two Truths And A Lie
What’s the engine of your success? Many in the C-suite would point to their business acumen, their academic credentials or their uncanny ability to read the winds of change and charge into the void, confident that they’re leading their business in the right direction. And to a certain extent, they’re right: Someone has to have the vision and the authority to steer the ship. But that’s not the whole picture. It can’t be. A CEO or Managing Director would be talking to an empty office without the support of the employees who carry out his or her vision. How ironic, then, that staff training is often one of the first priorities to fall by the wayside when times are lean and budgets are tightened.
Throughout my career, both in the UK, Europe and for the last few years here in Dubai, I’ve become a staunch advocate for staff training. This is not a popular view – the number of times I’ve been told that it is ridiculous to train staff or that it’s too expensive would surprise even the most hardened employee advocate. But here’s the reality: You have to develop the staff or you won’t move forward. End of story.
Have you ever played Two Truths and Lie? This ice breaker asks each person in a group to make three statements that unevenly straddle the line between truth and fiction, with the goal of the group trying to identify which statements are real and which are made up. It’s also a surprisingly handy framework to gain a better understanding on how to strengthen your employee base.
Truth: Not everybody wants to be a leader
One common objection I hear is that training everyone means that you’ll end up with a bunch of leaders running around with no one to delegate to. I’ve seen other companies try to tackle this by bringing in new talent to replace people who have been in the company for a long time, meaning that the base stays the same while the middle management is in constant churn. Depending on how frequently you’re bringing in new talent, this means that your business will be forced to constantly lurch along until your new hires get their heads around their jobs, the corporate environment and its underlying political ecosystem.
Instead, if you train and encourage the people who are already in your company (and selectively add employees who will further ignite your own vision), you have a built-in workforce who have already given you their hearts and minds, people who are ready to move the business forward if you just point the way. This is how you grow.
Don’t forget: Not everybody wants to be a leader, and that’s fine. If everyone wanted to be the General you wouldn’t have an army. Bottom line: Whatever they want to be, you’ve got to develop them. They’ve got to keep moving forward. That ethos should apply not only to interns and entry level staff, but also to senior management!
Truth: Investing in staff makes a difference in the market
What’s the point of investing in your staff? Isn’t there a risk that we’ll spend all of this money on staff who will just leave us for a better job once they’ve received the necessary training?
While there will obviously be exceptions, I believe we’re playing the long game with this approach. Here’s why: If we train our staff to the highest possible levels, our customers get the quality they’re after, we have to deploy fewer staff (because the ones we have are so well trained), the staff themselves are better paid and we’re making better margins at the end. It’s a win-win for everyone, including our employees. I’ve seen it happen time and time again – when you work for a company that truly invests in taking you to the next level, you want to give your all to make the company successful. That’s the sort of person I want on my team, and I’ll fight to keep them in the company.
Let me put it another way: When the market experiences high quality services for the right price, they’ll start demanding that standards rise throughout the industry – and those who can’t comply because they refuse to train their staff will lose out.
Lie: Growth means revenue and profit. Full stop.
I’ve seen companies achieve their own version of financial success by essentially bleeding their employees dry for the sake of the bottom line. That’s a workable strategy if you’re comfortable with your company becoming little more than a revolving door for disgruntled staff members (who only stay until they realise they’re just a number). It’s also a sure-fire way to ensure that consistent financial growth will be nothing more than a pipe dream.
Instead, I’d argue that “growth” must be defined by more than revenue and profit – it means people as well. You’ve got to bring new talent, but you’ve also got to move the bar forward. The only way to do that is by harnessing the potential of the people who make the whole machine work in order to deliver the services your clients need and deserve – the same services that they’ll pay you for, thereby increasing your bottom line.
Sure, the Truths are interesting – but sometimes you can learn more about a person or business based on the Lie they tell