My Open Letter to Managers Who Want to Solve a Respect Problem With Training

training role modelDear Manager,

Here’s a little secret I want to let you in on—just between us.

When you hire me to do a workshop so that your employees learn to get along better, at some point during the training, they almost always ask, “Do the managers have to attend one of these workshops?” By the way, when you haven’t yet been through the workshop, they already know it. They are good at noticing things like that.

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They usually don’t tell me what prompted the question—although sometimes they do. Even so, their body language makes it obvious that they think managers are not walking the talk.

Typically I’m not in a position to know if that’s true, but I can tell you that the perception of managers pulling the old “Do as I say, not as I do” does not make it easier for me to convince employees that they ought to treat each other with respect.

So here’s a bit of advice. Even if you’ve learned everything there is to know about delivering an “I statement,” and you are clear as a bell about the differences between passive, assertive, and aggressive; don’t start a new training initiative without the management team attending it first. If I can tell people you’ve been through the workshop, they will be more open to my message. And a little refresher is always, well, refreshing.

As an alternative to holding a management-only session, you could do a joint workshop with your employees. Yes, this will create some challenges.

Once I asked a question about what people saw as issues. After an uncomfortable silence, one participant told me “You aren’t going to get a response for fear of ramifications.” This guy’s boss’s boss was in the room, and from what I could gather this is where he thought the ramifications might come from. I’m pretty sure that manager won’t like being outed as someone who can’t deal with feedback. Hopefully there weren’t ramifications.

If you do take this option, you’ll want to think about ways to demonstrate that it is safe for employees to say what’s on their minds. This option isn’t as good as managers doing their own session, but it’s better than you not participating at all.

And one more thing. It helps if you practice what you’ve learned. It’s even better if employees can connect the dots between what they are learning and what they see you doing.

You are their leader. Be credible. Lead by example. It means a lot to them. And as your trainer, it helps me do my job.

All the best,

Your Trainer

By Tom LaForce

Tom LaForce helps companies change by creating stronger teams, more effective leaders, and better processes. To discuss a challenge you're facing, use this link to schedule a free discovery call.