GENERAL DIRECTOR MAGAZINE, NOVEMBER 11, 2019
How I found the lead: raising managers inside the company
As I was opening new parks, I faced a challenge: while a top manager is heading the new center, it’s efficient, but as soon as his team moves to another project, their performance becomes worse.
Let me explain what I mean. From the beginning of construction to the end of the first half of a year since release, the duties of a manager used to be fulfilled by the project leaders. During this period, we would find a person to be a chief operating officer, and he or she would begin working under supervision of the leader.
When the team left to work on another project, it was time for the COO to become a true manager on his or her own. But that was when the efficiency of inner processes dropped in comparison with the period under the management of the project team
We started looking for reasons — and found one in ourselves. We knew what to do but we weren’t able to pass that knowledge to others in an efficient way. Children and adults learn differently. There’s even a separate science called andragogy — ‘pedagogy for adults’. To find out how adults perceive information, my business analyst and I went to courses for trainers.
For six months, we were studying the art of performance, rules of making learning programs, types and formats of coachings (and writing of scenarios for them). So at first, we became trainers, and only then were we able to develop a learning course for managers in our own company.
Goals pursued by our company:
1. Raise professionals inside the company instead of hiring them. It’s a message to all our employees: «Here’s your chance! Just demonstrate your willingness to work and grow!» We open new entertainment centers each year.
By the time we launch another amusement park, we expect to have to a person able to manage it. That’s why we aim to raise at least one professional manager per course. Courses include theoretical and practical lessons for various kinds of skills.
2. Increase engagement and efficiency of current managers. It’s crucial that trainings are hosted my most experienced representative of our administrative staff as they have soaked corporate values and governance practices, and are ready to teach them to our employees. By coaching the managers, we will receive feedback from all members of our staff.
What training is like
Our management course is a six months’ program of five modules. Training takes places in cities where our entertainment centers are located. Participants are administrators, managers and leaders who’re already employed at our company but we also take in random people. Our employees receive a 70% discount though.
Yes, participants are paying for the course because when someone invests not only time but also money, they’re far more eager to learn.
Our employees can also receive a grant for learning. Any of them can submit a motivational letter to try to prove they deserve to get the course for free.
The program includes working on both soft and hard skills. Soft skills are management, motivation, leadership, personal growth etc. Hard skills are specific to the professional field of business.
To develop hard skills modules, we engaged our own professionals, some of whom have become trainers for specific sections of the course. For instance, the financial section was written, and is now hosted, by our financial director.
As for soft skills, we were working on their implementation in the course together with a coaching company. We’re also cooperating in the framework of the course: one trainer is ours, and the other one is theirs. Thanks to this, we can include topics that require profound training experience, like managing motivation of employees who resist change, efficient delegation of responsibilities, or team role identification tests.
By the end of the course, every participant must prepare a potentially profitable project for an entertainment center. The principal requirement is that project should be applicable right away, and its efficiency should be measurable.
Participants are developing their projects all on their own from the beginning to the end of the course. If your idea requires financial investment, you have to find money by yourself. But it doesn’t have to be your hard-earned money; you may request the necessary sums from a financial institution or the company’s budget. All participants have the right to appeal to the accounting office or the head manager. Of course, they’re expected to present, justify and protect their idea.
Many fail at that stage of the course. Most often, their mistake is developing a project that’s too big. While their ideas look interesting on paper, they’re not able to find resources for implementation because they underestimated their capabilities.
Here are some examples of successfully implemented projects: billiards school in the FUN24 entertainment center in Kazan and VR-zone in one of the other amusement parks. Projects were comprised of a number of small, doable steps: finding coaches, developing schedules and learning patters for billiards enthusiasts, drafting season tickets etc. The school was opened even before the end of the course, and resources invested in the VR-zone returned very soon.
We don’t have participants pass tests or exams. Our goal is to give them knowledge, which they’re expected to use to acquire skills. We ask questions, gather and give feedback, but we don’t criticize. In the end, certificates are presented only to those who implemented their projects successfully.
Some of the tasks are about tackling fear. For example, summary of revenues and expenses in an Excel table can be stupefying for any employee. But then we show them that things like that are not as scary as they seem. No one’s probably going to become a financial analyst after that, but they’re sure to let go of one of their fears. The next time a person faces this challenge, he will just do it instead of procrastinating.
Many participants began treating financial experts and accountants better after completing fund allocation tasks in the Cash Management section of the course. Here’s an example of one of the tasks. Each participant has to allocate a certain amount of money according to requests… which require 50% more money. Employees come to a realization what it is like to work in the conditions of limited budget.
Each section is followed by a discussion about what works and what should be improved or changed. We’re following the Deming cycle, which is also called the PDCA improvement method:
The thing is, many entrepreneurs prefer to go straight to action, skipping the first three crucial steps. I encourage developing plans, following them, and discussing the results and ways of advancement. Thanks to this approach, every new coaching session is better than the previous one.
The inherent part of our course is telling about people who built soaring careers in our company. Success stories are a great source of motivation: they demonstrate that each employee has an opportunity to be promoted.
Our current front manager Aigul Wafina began as a linear employee. Dina Bulychenko, director of FUN24, at first was a quality manager. Manuchekhr Rasulov, a technician in the beginning of his career, is not head of department of exploitation and repair of gaming equipment. Most of our administrators were once linear employees.
You can find more stories at timets.net, my personal site. I also keep making posts for social media showing others that in our company, anything is possible.
Every day of the course, we’re throwing intense brainstorms, during which representatives of our company from different cities develop business improvement goals together with the high administrative staff. Why? If I take the company strategy map and bring it to the employees, half of them won’t be able to finish reading, and the other half won’t be able to understand what I want from them because they’re not interested or engaged.
But there is another way: develop goals and objectives together with the employees. That will make the strategy map and its directions clearer. That will be the result of joint efforts, so the employees will see strategic goals as something of high value.
As a leader, I find it crucial to share it with my team that we have a lot of ideas for new projects. It opens for an equal lot of opportunities, from establishing a hotel to managing a waterpark.
Results to be achieved at the end of the strategic sessions are united team and shared responsibility. People should band together in a concentrated team composition that empathizes with the interests of the company.
Other reasons strategic sessions are good at motivating are change of environment (employees get to live in another city) and opportunity to learn and improve skills.