Here's what I learned from Miss Arti's School of Management.
1. Before the trip, she paired up the children. Each 3-year-old was paired with a 5-year-old. What do we call this? Mentoring! Instead of having the teacher hold hands with all the younger children, she assigned each a mentor—someone who has done the field trip thing before. Someone who can explain about how much fun the bus ride will be.
Everyone needs a mentor. Sometimes the process should even be formal, as it was for the preschool class. If you want to succeed, it helps to have someone who has succeeded, him or herself, helping you. Managers want successful employees: Well, you can help them by pairing people up.
2. Miss Arti firmly set expectations: "We are going to pick strawberries. We will pick red ones only. Do we step on the plants? No! We do not step on the plants. What color strawberries do we pick? That's right. Red!"
So often, managers get frustrated at employees who are running around frantically picking green strawberries. Why? Because no one told them to pick the red ones. All the employees heard was, "Fill your basket with strawberries." I know, I know—it's obvious to you, the manager, which berries need picking. But to your underling, it may not be. Go ahead and tell them what the expectations are. You will find out that when goals and expectations are clear, you get baskets of ripe berries.
3. During the trip, Miss Arti provided constant feedback: "Good job. Look at that big red berry." Or, "No, don't pick the green ones. Pick the red ones." Or, "Step over that plant. Ethan was at that plant first. Let him pick those. You go get the berries over here." As a result, bad behavior stopped before damage occurred, and good behavior received verbal rewards.
Think of the problems that could be solved in the workplace if everyone received proper feedback. So many managers are afraid to tell an employee to change. Instead of fixing the problem immediately and painlessly, such managers allow the it to continue. In the meantime, the employee goes along—blissfully unaware that he's doing anything wrong. After all, no one has said anything.
Then, there are managers who don't give positive feedback, either. Their employees are left to wonder if they are doing a good enough job. A lack of feedback can result in a loss of confidence or leave the employee feeling like his contribution is not valuable. Speak up when you see good behavior. Speak up when you see bad behavior. It solves problems in the long run.
(I wonder if I could market preschool teachers as management trainers. Someone's got to be willing to pay for that training.)
Suzanne Lucas has nine years of human resources experience, most of which has been in a Fortune 500-company setting. She holds a Professional in Human Resources Certificate from the Society for Human Resource Management. She blogs at Evil HR Lady.