When a business leader is talking to me about his or her team – either recruiting, developing or promoting someone – we often have the same conversation.
“They are brilliant architects / lawyers / engineers, but have no network / can’t present / aren’t business winners / won’t lead.”
Our universities are among the best in the world at teaching professional skills – design, finance, project management – but most graduates have no idea of the competencies needed to flourish in the business world. Most CPD programmes focus on the professional side of training needs; if you’re lucky, your professional body might lay on a project management or finance refresher course. By the time someone is pushing at a senior promotion, chances are they have picked up some of those skills over the years but not all of them.
Brilliant business people are able to make decisions, communicate well, inspire others and represent their firm in the public arena. They understand their market, have a good network and are skilled professionals. However, people aren’t born with these skills: they need to learn them.
As an in-house marketer, I would always meet this challenge with a regular in-house training course: interactive lunchtime sessions that covered everything from marketing (obviously) to grammar and public speaking, for everyone in the company from the Chair to the newest apprentice. And it worked brilliantly. Not just at improving the calibre of a firm’s professional staff, but at improving loyalty, commitment and people’s understanding of their role in the firm’s development.
It was always one of my favourite things to do. I was talking about things I’m passionate about, but it also kept me close to the front line and ensured that my own ideas and suppositions were properly challenged. The people who took part became advocates of change within the firm, because they could see more clearly and were more confident in their own place. I learnt more about planning / architecture / engineering. And the firms themselves became more focused on their brand, clients and markets.
Since my leap into independence a year ago, lots of the people who have been part of those sessions over the last decade or so have asked when I’m going to start them up again. So I’ve taken another deep breath, booked some space at GM Chamber, and will be giving up my lunchtimes again to throw chocolate at people and push them out of their comfort zone. I can’t wait. Who wants to join me?