An Employee Development & Leadership Lesson (and not where you’d expect it!)

You just never know when and where an important leadership & development lesson may reveal itself—and don’t worry—this little tidbit doesn’t have anything to do with scripture or beliefs!

This past Sunday morning at mass there was a new face up on the altar—a young man who looked to be embarking on his first ever solo shift as an alter server.  Usually on Sunday’s there are at least 2 and sometimes as many as 4 servers working together as a team—but this was the first time I’d ever seen only one.

Even though I’d never seen him before, he did seem to know the basics and his way around the altar itself, so he must have had at least a few training runs.  But he was moving very slowly and deliberately.  You could just see his mind working furiously trying to remember all of his tasks—and there was nowhere to hide in front of a decent sized Sunday congregation (and I may have noticed his parents in one of the front pews). Pressure!

It’s been many years (ok maybe something like 45 years to be embarrassingly exact!) since I had been a server and suddenly I could remember every little thing this youngster had to do.  There were a few times I wanted to shout out a quick hint or run up there and help him out (thankfully I didn’t do either!), and for the most part he did a pretty solid job.  There were a few bobbles here and there, and a few times where the service slowed down as he had to go back and grab something he had forgotten, but in the end, all seemed well.

But you could just see how excruciating an experience it was for this young man, and on my walk home all I could think about was how this was really a training and development lesson. And a lesson in helping your people be fully prepared for success.

It’s most likely that our young server had some training—working together on some “crews” with more experienced teammates; watching, listening to a few selected instructions, trailing others as they performed tasks, etc., but never really “doing” the work while being supervised by an experienced and trained trainer.  There wasn’t a documented process for his training, and he wasn’t tested on his knowledge to insure his command and comfort with the job at hand before he flew solo at the big Sunday mass.  And I’m pretty certain his trainer had been trained exactly the same way!

“What’s the big deal—it’s just a church service! What’s the worst that could happen? And trial by fire is the only way to really learn a task.  Back in my day……,” etc., etc.  True, nobody’s life was in danger, but we did have our young server (our employees/teammates) and his job (in our world it might be operating production equipment, calling on a customer, leading an accounting team, or using a forklift to move finished goods).

And here’s the reality of this story—we all know how important our people/employees/teammates are, and how important the safe, efficient, and professional performance of their daily tasks are to the success of our business. But are we actually working as leaders by putting actions against the words we all know how to say.

Invest in your people and invest in their training and development. You get happier, more relaxed and engaged employees, who have more skills and resources to perform the tasks that drive your business forward every day.  Don’t just say it—lead by doing it.

Originally published August 13th, 2018 on LinkedIn.


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