Getting Better by Reaching Out
As a young and newly minted supervisor on the Sheriff’s Department, I was placed into a position to supervise a classmate from my academy class, my former training officer, and one of the most tenured people at the patrol station. My total experience as a supervisor was about three months. Fortunately, I had been in a military program as a teenager and I was able to use some of the leadership concepts I had been taught in my new position. While I thought I was moving myself and the team in the right direction, there was conflict. I was the new supervisor, there was a new mission and a different sense of accountability. It was a difficult process at times, but ultimately, the team became cohesive and high functioning. Success……sort of.
While my team ultimately reached its potential, the path to that goal was problematic. I was a new supervisor with new expectations. My team was rooted in the status quo where they had done good work, but their willingness to change direction was resistive. While we were able to work out our team and individual problems, one of the largest mistakes I made was to believe that I was the only supervisor experiencing problems with their team. My ego and sense of failure kept me from reaching out to other peer supervisors for help.
Eventually, I reached out for advice. I explained to a peer the problems that I was having with my team, the frustrations that I felt, and my sense of failure as a supervisor. After listening carefully, my peer replied, “Is that all you’re dealing with?” He told me my team problems were reasonable for a new supervisor and the number of problems I was experiencing was low. I felt a huge sense of relief. I was experiencing problems that others were dealing with and I was not the only supervisor having problems. I also received some good advice about how to address my team issues.
Lesson learned, put your ego aside and reach out for help, guidance, advice, or whatever you want to call it. Just reach out. You will be a better supervisor for doing so. It is a lesson that I have embraced through the decades to make my efforts better. By reaching out to others, I was able to become a better supervisor. Now I reach out to others to become a better trainer and course developer. The successes I have experienced with my Team Building course, Workplace Harassment, and several others is directly related to reaching out for input and critique. It is not easy, but it is necessary.
The people I reach out to are experts in what they do, offer genuine critique, and are looking out for my best interests in delivering training content. We share a common goal of providing good effective training that teaches a skill, reinforces a behavior, or both. They are an invaluable part of the creative building process. They make your classes better and you strengthen your relationships with them.
As trainers, we must build a community by networking with each other. Connect with those outside of your profession or industry. Some of the best ideas for training came from people I spoke to that were not in law enforcement. They have a different point of view which was their strength. Embrace that different perspective.
Reach out. Get out of your comfort zone. Enable others to do the same.
Here is a plan of action to start this process:
- Identify one area of your training regimen which needs improvement
- Start with a manageable problem
- Move to more intricate problems as you embrace this process
- Remember that small enhancements lead to significant improvements
- Connect with three people who may help you address the problem
- Honestly describe your problem and ask for a solution
- Tell the person that you want their honest critique
- You will not debate the critique
- You will ask questions only to clarify the critique
- Be thankful and appreciative of the person’s efforts to help you
- They are helping you
- You are getting better by reaching out
- You are building a community.
Community building for training managers is an exercise I am fully embracing. You should too. Connect with those within your industry, but reach out to those who are outside of it too. The diversity of perspectives will make it better.
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Al Cobos is the owner and lead consultant for Dychelon which improves team performance and promotes successful team building. Al has successfully built teams over the past two decades. He has over thirty years of public sector experience in addition to teaching for several universities. His focus is to improve people in their personal and professional lives.