277,292. This is the first slide I showed while training leadership staff this past month. We spent some time letting them guess where this figure came from and after some time, and funny guesses, I shared this was how many patrons swiped into our facility from the first day of classes through this training. This is how many people interactions you can impact in your new role.
Of the first things I tend to ask professional staff is what type of leadership training they offer to their supervisory staff. With budgets tightening, roles being reworked and students being asked to do more hard skills, it’s no surprise much of the leadership training has moved to on-the-job experience.
However, this leaves key components to the experience we can craft for our user base up to students. We have specific ways to open our facilities, to sell passes and to facilitate programming, but think about applying this ideology to customer service and creating an experience for our users. I often hear students talk about how working in campus recreation is their first real job which means when they move into a supervisory role that’s their first leadership job.
When I have the opportunity to offer leadership development to staff, I ask to do it in the following way:
Leadership Training Comes First
When I lead my leadership training, I let the students know this is coming before we teach them the hard skills. My expectation is not that they know all the policies, procedures or what the day-to-day will look like. Sure, they have an idea from being present in the facility, but my goal is to challenge them to change their perspective. What we are going to do in our training is change your mindset so when you interact with our community you are intentional with the experience you are crafting. We are giving students tools to succeed and to apply to their roles. I find completing leadership training first and then doing area-specific training creates a better understanding of why things are done certain ways.
Understanding How Language Impacts Experience
One of the key focus areas is talking about the idea of policy education. Approaching someone with the idea they are breaking policy intentionally — policy enforcement — creates an immediate conflict between staff and patrons. However, approaching someone with the idea you are educating them on the policies of the department and offering alternatives turns the student leader into a valuable resource to that patron. Student leaders can now feel a sense of pride in their knowledge of the department. It’s important to me our leadership staff understand how they can impact the day of users through their communication.
Some Students Need Assistance with Problem Solving
Student employees look to the professional staff as the holders of all the knowledge. Many students want to ensure they are following all the rules perfectly. However, leadership cannot be black and white. We are constantly operating in the grey.
One of the activities I focus on is offering two problem solving models for students to practice discovering what works best for their style and to feel confident in deciding without having all of the information. Empowering students to discern what they feel is the best solution to a current situation and then following up with management afterwards will allow them to realize the impact they have on the day-to-day operations. We cannot train for every situation, but we can train on the tools to help make informed choices in the moment.
Challenge Them to Challenge Others
I always like to end leadership training with the importance of developmental feedback. Training students to start giving feedback on Day One creates consistency in our operations and allows the student leaders to influence positive change in our staff culture. Creating a process where feedback is timeline, avoids historical references, avoids undue emotion and focuses on “I” messaging allows our staff to train entry level positions on the impact we all have on each other. Developmental feedback allows our staff to create expectations early and to build a team for every shift. It shows they care, and all of these skills can be applied to their interactions with our users. By crafting the experience of the entry-level staff, the campus views our student leaders as caring about the development of the whole.
Training leadership staff is integral to the success of campus recreation. We thrive on our student development capabilities and see the impact on the students every day. Our staff are constantly seeking opportunities to grow and become stronger and more influential leaders. They are looking to us to help them. If you have successful leadership training, we would love to hear about it.
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