Tavern Training

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“You ever hear of tavern training?” my neighbor, Tony, asked me.

We were having one of those conversations that start with “Can I borrow your leaf blower?” and wind up over a beer in the kitchen. Tony was talking about his first promotion to supervisor.

He worked in a factory up in Ohio. One day the plant manager came by and told Tony he was going to be a supervisor the next day. At the end of the shift, the more experienced supervisors took him across the street for some “tavern training.”

The other supervisors bought Tony’s beer that night. And they shared their advice on what he should do, now that he was a boss.

It’s easy to think that today’s courses and management books are better than that old tavern training. But it had features that a lot of today’s new bosses would like to have when they make the transition from individual contributor.

Tavern training emphasized the transition. Going from individual contributor to someone responsible for the performance of a group is more like a career change than a job change.

Tavern training was conducted by the new boss’s peer group. The new boss was part of the group of first line supervisors and they showed him the ropes.

The new boss knew who to listen to. Tony put it this way.

“There was this blowhard, John, who told me all about being tough and not letting anybody get away with anything. But I knew what his people thought of him and what kind of results he got. I listened to the quiet guy in the corner with the thick glasses. His people loved him and worked their butts off for him.”

Boss’s Bottom Line

If you’re an experienced boss, round up some of your peers to help support each other. If you’re a new boss, find some experienced and successful bosses to listen to.

Your Turn

What parts of the old training for bosses should we keep?

How important is peer support?

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