Create Leadership Workshops at Your Company!

One ongoing project that I have at Automattic that I am especially proud of are our Developing Leadership Workshops. 

The workshops take place once per month, and last about an hour each. So far it’s been almost entirely Team Leads from within the company, with one guest speaker, Kevin Goldsmith of Spotify.

The workshops are stolen directly from Work Rules and Google’s similar practices – the idea, broadly, is to help individuals unlock the value in their own experience and practices to the rest of the folks at the company.

They’re open for anyone to attend, they’re recorded for future viewing, and full audio transcriptions are provided for the convenience of future Automatticians. Since we’re fully distributed, we do all of ours using video conferencing software. We use Zoom, but Google Hangouts or Skype would probably work fine, too. Zoom’s screenshare and baked-in recording have simply worked best for us.

This serves a bunch of purposes: it connects the leads (and potential future leads) to the rest of the lead community, it helps folks express and build expertise, and it creates an evergreen resource for new leads, leads looking to sharpen their skills, and creates a study guide for folks who are gunning for a future team lead opportunity.

Even if your company or organization has existing leadership training resources, creating this type of in-house skill-share is a really awesome and low-cost way to improve your leadership and help distribute value in a more transparent way.

(You know how I feel about transparency, right?) 

Here’s how you get this thing started. It’s easier than you think.

Create a Survey

You can use Google Forms or your survey building software of choice. In this survey you want to have three questions, all text fields:

When you think about being a lead, what do you think you’re doing really well?” (Required)

When you think about being a lead, what do you think you could be doing better?” (Required)

Who are you?” (Not Required)

Invite Folks to the Survey

Where do your team leads / managers / whoever hang out? For me, I sent out a blast in our internal team leads Slack channel. Maybe you have a weekly or monthly leadership standup. Maybe you have an email group for managers. That’s where you want to present your invitation.

I recommend being honest and humble: you want to be a better lead, and it’s likely that other folks want to develop too, and it would be really great to have a formal mechanism to better unlock the experience of the group for everyone’s benefit.

Collect Responses

Give it a week or two, then take a look!

The nature of this survey means you’ll have to do some hand-tabulation and categorization. Some of the big buckets I found included things like Providing Feedback and Inter-Team Communication. You may find different stuff at your company!

The biggest and neatest part is identifying the folks in your company who have self identified as having as strengths the things that many other folks identify as being weaknesses. These are your Big Wins.

Make a list of 4-5 topics where someone is an expert and others want to improve.

Gather Speakers

Reach out to the folks who have self identified as experts in the 4-5 topics, above. Explain the situation and your vision. Keep it low key, keep it super casual. Keep it cool like Fonzie.

It’s a 1.0, so there’s no reason anything needs to be carved in stone. We’ve done interview-style workshops, where another Automattician interviews the lead on a topic. We’ve done conversational style workshops, where two folks ID’d as experts discuss their approach and process. We’ve also done traditional slide-deck presentations.

Heck, if someone wanted to totally pre-record their workshop and then be present afterwards for Q&A, I’d be on board for that, too. Whatever they’re comfortable with.

Ship It!

Set a date, set a time, and let folks know 🙂

I like to reach out to individuals at Automattic who I know are interested in a topic to let them know it’s coming up. I also set up calendar reminders for myself to reach out to the speaker two weeks before, see if they have any questions or concerns, and to offer to walk through a dry run for them.

The first few may not have huge attendance – that’s OK, remember the Big Picture Idea is to record these workshops to unlock value for All Leads Forever, not necessarily just the folks in the room at the moment. Those are just the folks who get to see it first.


4 thoughts on “Create Leadership Workshops at Your Company!

  1. I love your strategy for sharing institutional knowledge across Automattic! I have often heard stories of companies that struggle with passing down knowledge from experienced to junior colleagues. It also takes into account what Stephen Covey shares at the very beginning of ‘7 Habits’, that you are more likely retain and apply to your life the things you teach. I am a bit of a kinesthetic learner, and find excuses to teach others around me a skill or concept as a way of reinforcing it in myself. Keep buggering on with these awesome workshops! (I am a bit jealous of the treasure trove of past videos, I may have to join the team to surreptitiously gain access)

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