My biggest pet peeve in the workplace is probably when people use the excuse of “I’m too busy” or “I don’t have time.” If you’re a leader, formally or informally, or if you’re looking to grow your career, this is a horrible excuse to use. In fact, you should just erase these phrases from your vocabulary.
One of the most disheartening times I hear this excuse used is when I ask leaders to help their employees learn new things and develop their skills. When they tell me that they’re just too busy to spend time developing their staff, I just don’t buy it. It just takes some creativity. Incorporate learning into things you’re already doing, such as meetings. Meetings are great places to incorporate learning opportunities because it’s also a way to get people excited to attend something they often dread. Here are five ways to do just that.
Start meetings off with storytelling. This part of the meeting can even start early if there are enough people who show up early (you know, that awkward time at the beginning of meetings when you’re waiting for everyone else and fill the time with useless small talk). That way, they are not bored and the people who arrive on time or a little late won’t miss out on the agenda but may be encouraged to arrive on time for the next meeting to hear the great stories. Allow people to share lessons learned since the last meeting, funny work stories that happened or accomplishments. Storytelling is a way for peers to learn from each other. It’s an easy way to gain new knowledge and encourage team building.
Ask a lot of questions if you’re facilitating a meeting. No one likes a lecturer or a know it all who just talks at them for an hour. Asking questions encourages discussion and participation. Asking questions also reminds your peers that it’s okay for them to ask questions. No one knows everything but everyone knows something. Again, allow people to learn from each other in meetings. Provide a safe, open and educational environment.
Tips of the Moment
Incorporate a tip or lesson during the meeting. Especially during long meetings, it’s nice to take a break. Use breaks to offer up quick tech or efficiency tips. One of the most popular tips that I offer during meetings are keyboard shortcuts. It’s short and sweet, yet teaches people something they may not have known before that can help them do their jobs better. Because it’s short and quick, people will likely remember it and can go back to their desks and practice the tip.
Turn Technology into Your Friend
It’s a common complaint that people are constantly playing games on their phones or checking email on their laptops during meetings. Why not turn this common distraction into a popular attraction by using technology to make meetings more fun and productive? Be prepared to bring a prize to every meeting and if a question or problem comes up during the meeting, the prize goes to the person who can research it the fastest and get an answer. This keeps them focused on the task at hand and engaged in the topics while still being able to multitask (just with your game instead of a game on their phone). This also encourages learning if people are researching something that could not be answered by anyone in the room.
Plan Follow-Up Training Sessions
I’ve noticed that people often speed through important topics and assume that everyone in the room is now properly informed. Sometimes, they’ll answer a few questions. Other times, they’ll assume that if you have no questions, you understand it completely. These are horrible assumptions to make.
Plan additional time to help people understand complicated topics that came out of a meeting. Hold follow-up training sessions on topics that people don’t seem to understand fully. Give them time to think after the meeting and come back with a fresh set of eyes. Then, help provide a more in-depth training session on the topic. These sessions don’t always have to be mandatory. They can just be optional for those who want more help.
Developing employees doesn’t have to be a burden on leaders. While it’s true that things are usually easier said than done, it’s also true that people often make things harder than they need to be. Don’t let training and developing employees become one of these things. Incorporate learning into every meeting to make staff development a productive and efficient process.