Filed under: — Doug Contreras @ 6:07 am on

Two weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a reader named Bob suggesting an essay on training. While training has been on my short list of possible topics for well over six months, it kept sinking to the bottom in favor of ideas that were prompted by more current events in my business life.

As I thought about Bob’s suggestion, I recalled a number of experiences in my career when training impacted performance. I’d like to pass along three of these instances for you to consider:

  1. Early in my career, I was promoted from a Sales Service Rep to a Plant Manager. To provide an incentive to expedite the transition process and my raise, I was awarded the responsibility for recruiting and training my replacement. Unable to find someone with technical expertise in our line of business, I hired Frank who had some sales service experience in a totally unrelated industry. While waiting for Frank to start, I began a diary and tracked my activities for a week. Falling back on my Army experience, I recalled the MOI (Methods of Instruction) course I took as an officer and wrote a lesson plan during the following week. On Frank’s first day, I gave him an overview of what I planned to present and told him I expected him to be ready to take over in 3 weeks. The process was simple. I gave Frank a chair alongside my desk while I continued to perform the job. At the beginning of each day, I quickly summarized and reviewed what was discussed the prior day. Next I previewed what we would cover for the upcoming day. As I took on each call and executed the appropriate follow-up action, I related what I was doing to the material in my lesson plan. At the end of each day, I spent ten minutes rehashing the day’s activities. After one week we swapped chairs - Frank talked to the customers while I critiqued each call and action he handled. After two weeks and a day, Frank was in the groove and I moved to my new assignment and my raise.

  2. Some years back I was recruited by a highly specialized manufacturing company to manage the day-to-day operations while the owner could focus on increasing sales. In spite of my solid management background, I was at a total loss when it came to the technical aspects of the business. I can remember sitting at the daily production meeting feeling like a foreigner unable to understand the basic terminology and the processes of the operation. Although I repeatedly begged the owner for training, he had neither the time nor the disposition. Instead he placed me on auto-pilot figuring I could learn by osmosis. I guess in way he was right - I did eventually teach myself. However, for nearly six months, I was a part-time manager and dramatically limited in my ability to contribute.

  3. Soon after joining a package printing company as VP of Operations, my new boss gave me his take on each of the key personnel who would be reporting to me. The profile for the Operations Manager, Jorge, was quite negative. Jorge was hired a year before I started and came from a container manufacturing plant in Central America. While he was bilingual, he had only a "textbook" understanding of English. Others in the company were quick to share stories about Jorge’s ineffectiveness as a manager. Fortunately a long time ago, I learned to formulate my opinions based on my own personal observation. As I got to know Jorge and began to question him on some of his management decisions, I found he was "thrown to the wolves" and had no training whatsoever. As I spent time with him, I found him to be bright and eager to learn. In addition to soaking up the management training I provided, he began to take a series of courses in night school. In one year, Jorge clearly became the most valuable person in the operation. Some viewed me as a miracle worker, yet Jorge deserves the credit for his metamorphosis - all he needed was training and a chance.

As I have sometimes done on other essays, I asked my daughter, Julianne, to look at this entry and critique it. As an accomplished high school teacher, I thought her input on this topic would be particularly appropriate. She suggested a change in the order of the examples I cited and helped me clarify some of my thoughts. Also, she thought I should add a closing paragraph to tie these instances together. On this last point I disagreed and decided to allow you to see the value in each example and draw your own conclusions. I hope you did!

Bob - Thanks for lighting the fire under me and making this a current event!


Julianne - As always, I value and appreciate your suggestions, advice, help and support!

Visit my profile on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/dougcontreras
I welcome your invite to connect!


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