Consider training as a last resort to performance problems

Dennis Sparks

Too often school leaders use training as the solution to performance problems. 

While it may be a solution or an important part of the solution, more often than not training doesn’t solve the problem because the problem itself was misdiagnosed.

Karen May, vice-president for people development at Google, describes it this way:

“Don’t use training to fix performance problems. If you’ve got a performance problem, there is a process to go through to figure out what’s causing it. Maybe the person doesn’t have the knowledge or skill or capability. Or is it motivation, or something about relationships within the work environment? Or lack of clarity about expectations? Training is the right solution only if the person doesn’t have the capability. But what I have seen in other places is sort of a knee-jerk reaction by managers to put someone in a training class if somebody isn’t performing well.”

Listening, empathy, and learning to give difficult feedback are alternatives to training, May says.

In my experience, many performance problems are rooted in a school’s culture.

Because it is easier to bring in a speaker or arrange a workshop than it is to establish clarity and focus throughout the school community and to have candid conversations about difficult issues such as integrity and trust, leaders default to familiar “solutions,” even though they are widely viewed as ineffective.

A worthy professional goal for school leaders in 2013 is to make training the last solution considered after all others have been thoroughly examined and dismissed.

If the school leadership team is unaware of alternatives to training, then it’s probably time for it to step back to learn about additional ways to improve performance. To that end I recommend books and articles by Lois Easton and a variety of resources available from Learning Forward.

 

5 Responses to “Consider training as a last resort to performance problems”


  1. 1 Jamie January 9, 2013 at 8:52 am

    I couldn’t agree more! What’s even worse is when school leaders make everyone go through training when only a few have a performance issue. May I add coaching to the strategies you’ve suggested. When leaders are skilled coaches they have a set of tools that can really work. So, maybe coaching traing for the leaders would be a good alternative to training for poor performers.

  2. 5 Rebecca Morr January 10, 2013 at 8:19 am

    Great words of wisdom… Thanks for sharing. Becky


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