Q: I like sending team members to conferences, panels and other learning activities. But no matter how much I ask, they are not good about sharing the information back for the benefit of the rest of the team. How can I get them to comply without taking the fun out of going?
A: Create structure to make it easy, and be firm in following up on your expectations.
Emphasis on easy.
If someone has a term paper hanging over their head, it's likely to be procrastinated upon. So think about what you really want from this sharing.
Realistically, simply sharing one kernel of insight from a particularly good presentation may be the start you need.
You can help by providing a quick format for people to follow if they wish.
How simple should it be?
All you really need is what they heard and why it was interesting.
Then give them a venue to tell about it.
As soon as they are back, either use your next team meeting as a forum or set up a special quick call for "news of the world" that they have heard.
It will be like exercising; sometimes the hardest part is getting started. As soon as they start telling about what they heard, they are likely to get excited and more will come out.
If you are not having regular team meetings, that's a problem at many levels.
Regular interaction, especially if you have people working from multiple locations, is essential to forming strong connections.
Yet team meetings can become dry, focused just on mundane matters and something that people may be tempted to multi-task through.
If you put some of the responsibility for the content on your team, you can prevent this, while also accomplishing the information sharing you seek.
For example, if you are meeting as a team twice monthly for an hour, assign a 10- to 15-minute slot to a team member.
They can start with the simple insight discussed above, if they have attended some type of session.
They could also share a topic they read about, or even a learning from a recent project that others might not know about.
Their update can be quick, and then you should be prepared to guide some discussion.
Be available to help them prepare, as they may not be comfortable at first.
If you have a fairly quiet team, this could be a barrier.
However, this activity will also give them a safe space to get used to speaking out in a group.
Use social media as another channel.
Some of your team may be keen to tweet or post on other platforms while they are in sessions.
If this works for them, get hashtags out to team members so they can learn with them in real time.
Plan ahead if agendas are detailed enough.
If there's a topic of specific interest, you can provide questions in advance to the attendee to follow up on. This structure may help encourage sharing.
The key is to not let it slip. It's easy to do when things are busy and when this type of activity is more of a perk, but everyone will benefit if information is shared.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at email@example.com.