So why not try a different method, which is less demanding in terms of your time and that may even produce better results? And no, I’m not talking about an outsourced model where you send your team on a training course. I’m talking about small group development.
Let’s say you have a team of three who you’d like to train and mentor. You would like to grow their managerial skills and their ability to analyze and confidently present a topic. Here’s what you do. Instead of spending time with each person individually, set out a development plan for the entire group outlining the topics that will be covered, e.g. planning, negotiating, interviewing, etc. along with specific business themes. Depending on how quickly you want to grow the team’s skills, you could choose a weekly topic or one every fortnight. Monthly development meetings might be too infrequent if you want the idea to gain sufficient traction.
After you have decided on a schedule of topics, ask one of the team members to work on the first one. Let’s say the topic is risk management. Ask her to prepare a short 10 minute presentation on the topic with the aid of three to four slides. Ask her to consider an example of a good risk management approach and one example of a bad approach and to explain her reasoning. As she comes to present the topic some weeks later to yourself and the other two team members, not only will she have learnt a great deal about risk management, she will also get the opportunity to practice her communication and presentation skills in a safe environment.
Your role during the presentation is to fully listen, to be supportive and to provide constructive feedback along with the other attendees. It’s important that none of you are overly critical, as that can have a negative impact on people's confidence. First tell the presenter what you really liked (content, presentation, style etc.). Then give her one or two suggestions for improvements. Other attendees do the same. We call this for layered or sandwiched feedback. You can then go into a deeper conversation about the topic and share any additional insights.
As the weeks pass, ask the team members to take turn presenting a topic and to use different media to do so. Sometimes the meetings may be face to face, and at other times they may be via a recorded webinar that can be played back and looked at. You might even ask the presenter to publish a short 600-word blog post about their topics afterwards (that's the approximate length of this post). I'm sure that will boost your team member's confidence if you provide them with the support they need.
Little by little, your team will come to use this development forum as a safe place to learn and explore and a place where they can practice their presentation and influencing skills. Not only that, the forum will also increase camaraderie and trust between you whist requiring relatively little time from your side. You do of course need to provide the team with your undivided attention during the meetings and to be committed to the programme without cancelling or postponing meetings. But the bulk of the effort remains with the team members, as they are the ones researching the topics whilst benefitting from your knowledge and feedback.
What do you think? Are you willing to give it a go?
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