Navigating Manager Training for Startups: A Strategic Approach
What should you focus on and why?
In the fast-moving world of startups, the question of when to initiate manager training is a common one. While it may be tempting to tie the answer to a specific number of team members or managers, the reality is that the timing hinges on a variety of factors…
1. Organizational Complexity:
Evaluate the complexity of your startup's structure. The more intricate the organization, the more crucial leadership training becomes. Focus on skills like change management, scalable communication, decision-making, and accountability.
2. Leadership Challenges:
If you identify challenges related to team motivation, communication, collaboration or creativity, these indicate a potential need for training in conflict management, negotiation and psychological safety.
3. Lack Of Strategic Goal Clarity:
Align manager training with your startup's ambitious goals for growth, expansion, or market penetration. Concentrate on skills such as vision setting, cascading goals, strategic planning, and prioritization to propel your team towards these objectives.
4. Performance Issues:
Address notable performance gaps by focusing on skills related to feedback and coaching. Closing these gaps organically may require additional training to enhance managerial capabilities.
5. Legal and Compliance Considerations:
Depending on your location and industry, there might be specific managerial training you need . Topics like anti-harassment and interviewing/hiring come up frequently here. You’ll want to ensure that you are aware of and compliant with the regulations in your region.
Recognizing that training is not a one-time fix (but, rather, an ongoing process to meet evolving needs) you might be wondering where to start. Let’s look at it from an organizational size perspective…
Early Focus: Communication-Related Skills
In the initial stages, prioritize core communication-related skills. Lay the foundations for a healthy culture through coaching, feedback, and growth-focused 1-on-1s. Neglecting these topics early on can lead to cultural debt in the long run.
Next Steps: Scalability Skills
Once communication skills are established, shift focus to skills that foster scalability. Personal scalability involves setting boundaries, prioritizing ruthlessly, and avoiding context switching. By contrast, organizational scalability is founded on clear ownership and the ability to make good, deliberate decisions quickly.
Challenges At 100-150: Relational Skills
As your team enters the 100-150 range, you’ll notice more challenges. This is the zone where your organization is approaching Dunbar’s number. At this scale, you’ll have people in the organization who may never meet each other. You’ll also have people who work together who may have never met physically. You’ll likely have teams who have only the most rudimentary understanding of each others’ work (i.e. little more than what they can glean from team names). These realities of scale can often create little conflicts here and there. At this point, a focus on building psychological safety is a smart choice to help ensure the teams continue to move quickly and creatively. You don’t want to lose the innovative spirit that got you started in the first place. You may also find that giving your leaders some conflict management training will help them to feel more confident in navigating the stormy waters associated with organizational scaling.
Beyond: Building A Learning Culture
It’s important to think of all development as a continuous program where you blend a little bit of proactive care with a healthy serving of real-time problem solving. In other words, you almost never want to wait until you have an obvious problem to give people the opportunity to grow and practice the skills they need to be the best version of themselves.
It’s also crucial to remember that learning can (and should) come from many different sources. Whilst we are very proud of our workshops and leadership program, we always encourage our clients to think about what they can achieve by treating our offerings as one component of a broader growth support strategy.
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We love riffing on this topic so if you’d like to talk through your organization's journey, we’d be happy to offer our thoughts. Hit reply to set up a call.