Training Employees is Like Training a Puppy

OK, I know some of you are already offended. “How could you possibly equate training humans with training a dog?” you ask. Hear me out. Dee and I are about to get a puppy. We’ve been without a canine companion in our lives for nearly nine years and we’ve been reading up on puppy training. For years, as booksellers, we were aware of the Monks of New Skete and their books about their gentle training methods, but this is the first occasion we’ve had to really delve into those books.

Here are the principles that apply to their training: 1) Be clear about, and clearly communicate your expectations. Managers, like dog owners, often leave their charges guessing what is expected of them. Is it any wonder that confusion ensues? 2) Quickly, and gently, correct mistakes. Have you ever waited until an annual review to talk with someone about a bad mistake or negative behavior? How did that work out? 3) Praise and reward generously and punish sparingly. Do staff members cringe when they see you coming? Do you give credit for a job well done? 4) Constantly reinforce the training. We’d all like to believe that training is a once and done proposition. But our experience tells us otherwise. So accept that and plan on reinforcing proper procedures and behavior. 5) Have fun. As the famous ad man David Ogilvy said “where people aren’t having any fun, they seldom produce good work.”

The idea of training a puppy, the monks insist, is not to teach some well-rehearsed tricks. The purpose is to make it easy for the human and dog to live together and benefit each other. The purpose in training employees is the same. In nearly four decades of running businesses I made many mistakes in training staff members. I hope I’m more successful with my puppy.

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