Training At the Point of Error

Sometimes training staff can really feel like an interruption in a manager’s day. For almost 20 years I’ve been in a position where I had to train people to do their job. Today I find myself encountering training opportunities almost hourly if I get out of my office and interact with my staff. But something I haven’t always been great at was training at the point of error.


There are many opportunities for employees to screw up on any given work day. Bad decisions, lack of understanding, or willful choice to go against policy can all contribute to the error. As managers, it is important to note the mistake and not move on until it’s been corrected. What I’m not talking about here is an in your face, aggressive, “you are the worst employee in the world” type of correction. This only serves to make the manager more important in their own eyes.

What needs to happen is an engaged conversation where there manager calmly explains the error and its correction to the employee, staying long enough to ensure the correction is understood. No “seagull leadership” here where the stupid-visor swoops in, poops all over everything, and then flies away.

Training at the point of error is very important for several reasons:

  1. The employee’s brain will be primed for correction about a task or decision what that thing is freshest in their mind. Imaging correcting the thirty-second note played in an aria, but not correcting it until several hours after the aria was played. That doesn’t work very well does it?
  2. Because memory is constructed it requires reinforcement or change in the short-term to stick in the long-term
  3. There is not as much emotion tied to an error that was just made. It’s easier for the employee to maintain composure and just work to fix a recent error than one made a while ago. They aren’t emotionally invested in their decision yet.
  4. If the manager sees the error but decides to wait until later to correct it, they run the risk of forgetting. This will cause the error to propagate and possibly be repeated.
  5. Frankly, the most compelling reason of all: it’s more efficient (and we all could use more of that)

Try it – I’m sure you will find that over time it will make your department or company more efficient and lower the stress level of making errors. Just be careful that you don’t become nit-picky. Make sure the error is really worth correcting and not just something that you would have done differently out of personal preference.

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