The value of education

April 6, 2015

Through all the years I’ve worked in publishing, I’ve attended at least one annual trade show. I’ve listened to roughly 60 keynote speakers and hundreds of educational sessions. It’s an interesting part of my job and I didn’t realize how valuable it would be until I became a manager.

Those of you who have gone from running a company yourself or being promoted to a manager can likely relate to how it requires a different set of skills. You find yourself trying to balance being a mentor with setting clear requirements and goals. It can be difficult to delegate the tasks that you either most enjoyed or believe to be most important. How do you even decide the right candidates to hire? How do you analyze their performance — being fair, motivating and also getting what you want?

Get tips from trade shows

I asked questions of other managers, but I also turned to the tips and tricks I collected along the way from keynote speakers. They provided a great framework as I gathered experience. 

One of my earliest educational sessions was given by a basketball coach who talked about how he felt we shouldn’t encourage everyone to learn everything. Sure, a basic knowledge is fine, but a point guard shouldn’t be trained as a center. He made the argument that each member of a team, including business teams, has certain skills, and the boss’s job is to put those skills together to form a productive whole. Business owners would be better to hire employees who excel in the areas they are weak, rather than try to be strong everywhere. For example, an owner who enjoys talking to people but doesn’t have more than a basic understanding of sales data can create a dream team by hiring a highly analytical person who is great with data.

One of the focuses of at least eight of the speakers I remember, including a couple of prominent sports figures and the CEO of a pizza chain, was the idea of positive reinforcement. It’s one attribute to good management that some bosses disregard. However, numerous surveys show that recognition is what many employees seek. One speaker used to keep 10 pennies in his right pocket. Each day, he would try to compliment someone on his staff. Each time he did, he moved one penny to his left pocket. Often it was job related, but it could also be about a new hair cut or anything. Another speaker used to aim to compliment people in his life once every seven days. He had concluded that amount of time was the sweet spot for positive reinforcement.

Aim to motivate individually

Motivation is another key duty of a manager and it changes with each employee. I recall one speaker who used what looked like a web of words to determine motivation. He asked employees to write down words that were important to them. He did the same thing. They would compare “webs” and then he would ask what they wanted from their work. In this way, he was able to provide the right type of motivation.

Yet another speaker tried to make employees feel united with the cause of the company. He would encourage them to participate in decisions and share input. The employees felt as though they had a stake in the future and felt valued. It made company success personal.

This issue is featured at NAMA OneShow, a great place to see what more you can learn.