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Flipping training on its head

We’re continuing our discussion about how you can develop new engineering managers: the elements of your training program.

(Part one: Everyone talks about it, but no one does it.)

(Part two: Becoming a true believer.)

There’s one topic which always comes up first when thinking of management training programs.

“What should they learn?”

This makes sense, as we’re anxious to get the outcomes of the training.

But before we talk about what is learned, let’s talk about how it’s learned.

In this case, ‘how’ make the difference between training and learning.

My first goal is for you to develop your own leaders through in-house training, so let me reveal the secret in the sauce.

I know, I know. “But Marcus, if you give it away, no one will buy it!”

I’ll take my chances, young padawan. It’s that important.

Telling ain’t training

When you deliver the kind of training I am suggesting there will be very little… telling.

Oh, you’ll need some telling, but far less than you think.

A tale of two trainings

Compare these two scenarios for a moment:

1) You enter the conference room where the new engineering managers are gathered for the hour of training. You stand at the front, reading the 57 powerpoint slides you have for this session. Five minutes from the end you ask, “Any questions?” The room is silent, so you end on time.

2) You enter the conference room where the new engineering managers are gathered for the hour of training. You sit around the table discussing chapter 10 of Becoming a Technical Leader. Participants have already read the chapter and answered three key questions, so discussion moves around the table, comparing perspectives. Someone brings up a real-world situation, and everyone collaborates on the problem. You’ve said little up until this point, except asking a few questions. At 60m you ask if people want to stop or continue the discussion. They agree to stop now, and the discussion moves into the hallway.

I don’t know any engineering leaders who relish leading scenario one, but pretty much everyone gets excited at the idea of scenario two.

Truth be told, I don’t know anyone who would want to attend the first scenario, either.

Instead, we’ll use participatory leadership and facilitation techniques for your trainings.

This involves asking questions, listening, and creating an environment where everyone can participate.

This approach is called “flipped classroom”, and it’s the new hotness in professional where technical skills, judgment, and teamwork are keys to success.

Nursing is an example of a profession which uses this approach.

Turns out it works great with tech managers too, for similar reasons.

In this training there is less emphasis on “right answers”, and more emphasis on problem-solving, new perspectives, and collaboration.

It’s thought of as flipped because the “homework” part of traditional classrooms is done together, such as answering questions and collaborating on scenarios.

As you might expect, this kind of training produces groups who trust each other and have learned to think together.

This is what effective management teams are able to do: think together to generate new possibilities for the company.

Now that you’ve seen an example, could you imagine yourself leading such training?

You might still have questions, so take a minute and write me back. I’ll address them ASAP.

Or, if you’d like to talk about working together on this, grab a time on my calendar using this link:

Tomorrow I’ll lay out the for key materials you’ll need for an effective training program.


About Marcus Blankenship

Where other technical coaches focus on process or tools, I focus on the human aspects of your Programmer to Manager transition. I help you hire the right people, create the right culture, and setup the right process which achieves your goals. Managing your team isn't something you learned in college. In fact, my clients often tell me "I never prepared for this role, I always focused on doing the work". If you're ready to improve your leadership, process and team, find out how I can help you.

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