At a meeting of my executive forum, one CEO talked about how she ensures that her management team stays sharp: She requires all bosses to join a peer group or industry association.

It’s actually written in their contract. They don’t get their annual bonuses if they can’t show active participation.

I like this idea. The way to become a gazelle in your industry is to achieve flawless execution of strategy at all levels of your company. Fail to accomplish that goal and somebody’s eventually going to knock your block off. The ONLY way to do it is to create a learning organization where the executors of your strategy, your managers, are highly trained and tuned into state-of-the-art practices in your industry.

Management training isn’t enough. Look what happened at Toyota two years ago, during that stretch where they had a long series of recalls. This is a company that achieved the pinnacle of excellence. But it couldn’t SUSTAIN it.

The continuing education requirement in every manager’s contract is a great way to sustain excellence in your management ranks. Just because an executive is good today doesn’t mean he or she will be good tomorrow. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen bosses rise quickly in organizations and then lose their way. Sometimes it’s complacency or even laziness. Other times they simply lose focus.

As the Chinese say, “If you want a sharp knife, you need to grind it.” I’m sure that sounds better in Chinese, but you get the idea. Continuing education — whether it’s instructor-led training, e-learning, blended learning, or simply mixing with peers — keeps you sharp.

Stephen Meyer
Director of Research and Development
The Rapid Learning Institute

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