I recently told you about a business coaching client of mine: Josh.  He had been in business over five years, and had done a great job of building up a loyal clientele and solid product portfolio. But he suffered from a lack of cross training in his business. He wasn't sure where to start and had already wasted a lot of valuable time creating policies and procedure manuals that no one was ever going to read. 

So I shared a few more tidbits to cross-training success with him. 

1. Drip don't drown.

This is one of the biggest mistakes that business owners make when training their staff and one that I see every single day with new clients. When an employee wants to know how to do something or has a question on a process you don't have to give the full answer all at once.  Think of it like watering a plant, drip....don't drown.

The concept behind this trick has to do with the act of struggling or disfluency. The more you struggle or grapple with something, the more engaged your brain becomes and the deeper you learn This is why trying a new skill before being trained is so much more powerful than just being shown how to do something. Of course there are some circumstances where this isn't possible, and in those cases consider role-playing scenarios for hands-on training opportunities. 

As you progress in your training, give them plenty of opportunities to test their skills and receive feedback along with way. Lots of small micro corrections given frequently is much more effective than one long lecture. 

2. Increase strategic depth.

Another tip that I shared with Josh, was the concept of strategic depth. This basically refers to your companies ability to handle situations or tasks if you or another key team member is out of the office. If you are sick and can't come in to sign checks, does your staff go unpaid? If someone quits, where are the holes in your company? Who suffers if only one person can handle a certain task?

As you lay out your training, consider the following:

  • Map out positional reliances. What task are only able to be done by one person in the company?

  • Prioritize. If that person where to leave the company today, which reliances would need to be addressed first?

  • Start with yourself (owner) first to reduce the perceived fear.  Talk about why it matters: "I am going on vacation, what two to three items do we need to cross train on to ensure we don't have a mess or things stacked up when I come back?"

  • Have a fire drill. Let's try to have another team member run things when I am still "here."

3. Coach for development, not results.

And last but certainly not least, I want to talk about coaching your team for the bigger picture. Think of this like the little league coach playing all the players on the team to help develop them, knowing that they aren't going to win any games based on that lineup.

  • Coaching for development takes time. You will have more questions than opportunities and you have to strategically choose which conversations to have now and which ones to have later.  

  • Be realistic. You can't coach everyone in the company for development.  Some on your team don't want to grow. They will do a good job for you but don't want to go further. Start with one or two of your direct reports or other key leaders.