The Five Steps of Training

A lot of managers don’t realize it, but one of their responsibilities is to be an educator.  The problem is that not all managers are born teachers.  For those who want to be good teachers, here’s a five-step method for developing those necessary teaching skills.

The five basic steps to good teaching/training are:  1. Tell; 2. Show; 3. Try;  4. Observe; and 5. Praise or Redirect. Knowing and following these five steps won’t make everyone a great teacher, but using them ensures that the learner will be able to accomplish what he or she is taught.

The first step, “Tell,” is critical.  It seems so obvious, but people sometimes fail to explain to those they supervise just exactly what it is they wish them to accomplish.  A manager must tell a person specifically what it is he or she is to achieve.

In business I see people running around with nothing but a perception of what they’re supposed to be doing.  When someone does something wrong, the manager definitely uses the “tell” step, as in “telling someone off.”  People get reprimanded for not doing what they didn’t know they were supposed to do in the first place.  If this seems confusing, just think about the poor employee’s advanced state of confusion!

All good performance begins with clear goals.  These goals should include a statement which defines what it is a person is to accomplish.  If people know what is expected of them, it’s much easier to teach them, as well as to ensure that they know when their goals have been reached.

The second step in managerial teaching is to “Show,” which is also the second part of goal setting.  Here, a manager sets standards.  It’s one thing to tell people what you want, but another to provide them with a clear picture or model of what or how to perform the task.

With this second step of “Show,” managers need to have a series of stages or steps to get people to deliver good performance.  You can’t manage what you can’t measure.  Hence, it is helpful to have stages that demonstrate and document when someone is achieving his or her goal.  These stages can be measured in terms of dollar value of sales per quarter, the number of sales calls made weekly, or the number of pages typed in a given day.

If these steps are laid out in advance, a manager and the employee have specific criteria to use should things go wrong.  If the manager says, “Charlie, you didn’t make enough sales calls today,” with no pre-determination of how many “enough” is, Charlie has no standard by which to be judged whether he or she is successful.

The third step is “Try.”  This is the step in which you give the ball to the employee and let him or her run with it.  A wise manager will be careful not to let the trainee try to achieve too much initially.  Frequently, you’ll find that beginners are naively enthusiastic.  In their excitement, they will take on more than they can handle.  This sets them up for an inevitable crash when things start to go wrong in the learning process and the learner becomes disillusioned with his or her progress.

The fourth step is to “Observe” performance.  It’s necessary to observe beginners very closely throughout the very early stages of development. Some might wonder whether this kind of observation makes people feel they are being micromanaged. The answer to this question is “no”—if the employee knows that you’re observing for the purpose of helping him or her win.  If people really know you’re out to help and not to harm them, they’ll welcome your observation.  In fact, what beginners really don’t like is a manager who gives them a new and unfamiliar assignment and then disappears.

Observing is one of the biggest problems in training.  Here’s what frequently happens:  The leader or manager, who is supposed to be supervising and directing, adopts a delegating style of management. The learner is set adrift to fend for himself or herself without supervision.  The manager will be looking over the learner’s shoulder and will react only when something goes wrong.  You can imagine the outcome.  The manager lets rip and the poor learner, who has had no positive direction, falls apart. With this type of training technique, all the manager achieves is to teach people how to avoid punishment, which is an unproductive skill.

The last step in the process involves “Praising or Redirection.” There are two parts of this last step, since there are two potential outcomes to the efforts of any beginner, and each needs special treatment.

The key to praising is progress.  It isn’t necessary for a job to be absolutely perfect.  The goal of a manager-teacher is ultimately to transfer the praising process from the manager to the learner. As employees get better and more adept at performing tasks, they should be able to pat themselves on the back for a job well done. The object is to create mature, self-reliant achievers.

Redirect is what a manager does when things go wrong.  Remember, never punish a beginner.  A good manager-trainer will redirect the learner and have him or her try the task again.  If a person has trouble successfully performing a job, he or she should be redirected to try and try again.  If success is still not achieved, then it’s necessary to go back to goal setting.

The odds are that with proper training, the beginner will achieve success, assuming his or her trainer follows these five steps.

4 thoughts on “The Five Steps of Training

  1. Another great piece, Ken. My first comment is on the first task of “telling” or setting goals. It is important to emphasiez that the set goals should neither be too low nor too high. For high achievers love goals that challenge them yet not impossible to achieve.

    Secondling, about the fourth step: “observing”. As you have stressed elsewhere in the principles of situational leadership, it is important to emphasize that as for the veteran employees, too close supervision can be counter productive.

    Thank you for this piece.


    Tom Dienya
    National Food Security Programme
    Ministry of Agriculture

  2. Dear Sir,
    I think all above said can come true just by bringing “Caring & candor” to work as you pointed in your book “helping people win at work”.

  3. Clarity is important at initial stage as what and how are most important questions , our colleagues will be asking . As leader of team sharing the complete clarity with conviction will bring confidence in our colleagues to takeup the task with confidence and passion .

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