As a leader, what do you regard as your most important responsibility? Is it problem solving, creating a vision, or making sure you put the best possible product on the market?
I view product and people as the main focus, but not in that order. People first, because without people, product is impossible. If you have a highly motivated team and you invest in it daily, the team members will produce the best product.
Investing in people is a deliberate process of empowerment, and a huge part of it is creating training opportunities to enable people to grow and innovate.
There are many interesting courses available in the media industry, but nominating someone for training is not enough. It is a waste of time, energy, and talent if you create opportunities for learning without creating an environment where the newly acquired knowledge can be applied.
Don’t send your most talented people for training and then ignore them when they come back. It will frustrate them, and they will leave to apply their knowledge in an environment where they feel appreciated and challenged.
As a media leader, you can create an environment where training and the application of new knowledge and innovation become part of the organisational culture. Here are five ways to achieve it:
- Train on-site.
You don’t have to send people away for training. Identify on-site training opportunities like Web seminars. Identify team members to attend and set the tone for a learning experience.
Use a quiet boardroom where they can focus, provide some coffee, and schedule a de-briefing afterward where they can discuss what they have learned and what practical steps they can take to implement that learning. Remember to set deadlines for implementation.
Ask: What do we have to do in the next three days, the next two weeks, and the next month to apply what we have learned? LinkedIn for Journalists offers Web seminars, and it is also a useful group where you can identify trends and topics to discuss in your office.
- Send a training e-mail.
Send out a weekly or bi-weekly e-mail to your team with useful links to interesting articles. It will save time if you ask colleagues to send you any relevant articles to include in the training e-mail. This way you will have a broader scope of subjects and sources, and you don’t have to research for topics on your own.
The Poynter Institute offers a variety of practical guidelines, trends, and ideas that can be included in your e-mail.
- Use social media.
Training does not have to take place in a group environment. Distributing training material to individuals to work through in their own time can be a powerful tool.
If you read something interesting on social media, distribute it and tag a team member into the conversation. A single tweet can start a whole conversation in your organisation. This is especially useful when you want to reach younger co-workers that are much more at ease with conversing on social media.
- Encourage job swaps.
Short-term job swaps (two weeks to three months) will create a training opportunity and give team members better insight into the functions and roles of different departments.
It is also a great way to spot talent. Maybe the crime reporter has the ability to become a prize-winning layout artist. Identify candidates for job swaps and be clear about expectations. Why does it make sense? What will the operational impact be? Identify a dedicated mentor to guide the incumbent and provide time for feedback.
- Pair youth with experience.
Never underestimate the might of informal training. On bigger assignments, pair youth with experience. I can think of few better options of bridging the gap between print and digital.
Have your most experienced reporter file the article for print, while the young, tech-savvy reporter takes control of the multi-media aspects of the story. This will cause a natural transfer of skills, in both directions. Determine the scope of the story beforehand to create a single vision or outcome. This will help them to work together, not against each other.
Follow up with a conversation. What worked? What didn’t? What did you learn? What should we do different next time?
Invest in people. It will pay off.
But there is another incentive. If you train people and create an environment of innovation, it will make your work as a media leader easier.
Jeff Haden, a contributing editor for Inc. Magazine, shed some light on the value of training in a recent post on LinkedIn called “10 painless ways to free up major chunks of time.” His advice: “Train, explain, and trust. And remove yourself from all the processes where you don’t belong.”
This is true empowerment. It is also good time management because it will prevent you from micro-managing and enable you to focus on other important aspects of your organisation.