Community of Practice, Learning, and Experience
for first-line managers

customized learning in a community setting

This is not a typical management / leadership training program

It is a cost-effective, time-effective, just-plain-effective approach to supporting the first-line manager in developing the skills they need – skills that are vastly different from those that got them promoted from individual team member into this management role.

It’s an opportunity for managers to get customized learning in a community setting.

Wait, what? customized AND community?

  • Customized learning is generally available only in high-end (read: high-cost, time-intensive) programs of individual coaching and training. In this Community, every member’s individual situation is explored in an initial one-on-one meeting, during which they set specific goals, post those goals within the Community, and are held accountable to them by me and by their fellow members. Because I understand each member’s circumstances and objectives, I can ensure they receive the right coaching and actionable, bite-sized instruction at the right time.
  • The community setting provides multiple learning opportunities for and from managers with varying experience as a cohort from within one company – or, for smaller organizations, coming together as a combined cohort from two or more companies.
  • The combination of the two creates a dynamic, interesting, and valuable learning experience – all the things that make learning stick.

Why does this matter?

  • First-line managers are promoted out of individual contribution, where they excelled, into management and leadership, and expected to perform at the same level of excellence in the new role – for which they’ve had no training or experience.
  • There’s a huge gap between being an individual team member and being the team lead. Without support, the newly-promoted manager will struggle to fill that knowledge gap in any way they can – which commonly results in a hodgepodge of not-so-great habits, hopefully interspersed with a few good practices.
  • Managers directly impact and influence the vast majority of any organization’s individual employees. Therefore, how they manage and lead is crucially important to employee engagement and productivity, project success, and overall company profitability and growth – not to mention the company’s culture.
  • Traditional training tends to be a boatload of content with little practical support. We’ve all had the experience of learning interesting facts, but then … how does that actually apply in my specific situation?!
  • And traditional training is often expensive financially and chronologically, taking up big chunks of money and time, while not providing a proportionate return on investment.

So, okay: what’s a “community of practice, learning, and experience”?

  • A Community: a group of people with shared interests coming together to interact, learn from, and support each other, including active, knowledgeable facilitation, guidance, and teaching from an experienced online-community builder with decades of leadership and community experience;
  • of Practice: a specific shared interest they all practice in some form, receiving active, practical, knowledgeable support within the Community to continue developing their skill;
  • Learning: within the Community they ask questions, get concrete, actionable answers, and receive bite-sized relevant content;
  • and Experience: experience is the best, fastest, and most impactful way to learn, and within the Community members gain confidence as they’re coached through specific, real-world situations of management and leadership in their day-to-day work;
  • actively facilitated, moderated, and managed to create a safe space for learning, exploring, making mistakes, being encouraged, sharing experiences, and growing.

 I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand. (Chinese proverb) ←

What are the results of the Community approach?

  • Actual implemented learning and behavior change, because members receive bite-sized content directly relevant to their situation and goals, and have consistent support in practicing the tools and concepts.
  • Engaged employees who understand what they’re working on, what they’re working toward, and why – because their new managers understand what and how to communicate.
  • Reduced absenteeism because employees aren’t dreading going to work – or truly out sick because of stress – or off interviewing for other jobs. (People leave managers, not jobs; it’s a reality.)
  • Lower turnover because struggling managers aren’t driving employees away. (See: people leave managers, not jobs.)
  • Reduced hiring and staffing costs because of reduced turnover. Depending upon salaries and the number of employees impacted, a single failing manager can cost up to $150,000 or more. Yes, that’s one hundred fifty thousand. (Direct download to my calculation spreadsheet if you want the unhappy details.)
  • Greater project success rates – the holy grail of “on time and under budget” is achievable when you have good managers leading their teams.
  • All leading to happier customers – whatever your business model, happy employees are directly correlated with happy customers.
  • And greater profits – happy employees lead to happy customers, leading to more customers spending more money. Just in one research study, improvements in employee experience increased revenue by over 50% and profits by almost as much.

What’s involved?

  • Careful pre-screening – every Community member starts with an initial screening conversation and must commit to a minimum participation level of at least 75 minutes every week (an average of 15 minutes per weekday).
  • A 45-minute one-on-one session to kick off participation in the program. We’ll discuss what needs to  be accomplished and why, and set specific goals for the time in the Community.
  • A second 45-minute one-on-one session at the three-month mark assesses progress to that point and sets objectives for the second half of the program.
  • Additional one-on-one sessions may be scheduled as desired.
  • An exploration of values, how they apply to leadership, and specifically what values each member holds.
  • Accountability – too many programs fail to include accountability in their process. Members in the Community identify and commit to goals, and are held accountable for working towards and achieving those goals.
  • Confidentiality is expected. As the saying goes, what happens in the Community stays in the Community. Members are expected to appropriately manage what they share, and commit prior to being admitted into the Community to maintaining privacy.
  • Structured online interaction – specific learning and discussion tracks support the foundational skills of management and leadership, whilst leaving room for individual experience, situations, unique skill-sets and capacities, and – of course – questions.
  • Asynchronous online support – members ask questions at any time through the online platform and quickly receive answers (within a few hours at most during regular workdays).
  • Bite-sized instruction – short teaching sessions twice a month provide relevant skill development with room for questions and situational guidance. These teaching sessions are recorded and stored in a resource library for all members to access.
  • Office hours – weekly time to interact directly with me, the Community facilitator and instructor, via first-come, first-served live video support for any member to ask questions and receive coaching.
  • Member-to-member community-building – members are encouraged to make connections, take advantage of the online chat and video-call functionality, and support each other with their own experiences.
  • Normalization of the realities of being a first-line manager, with all the uncertainties, anxieties, and challenges. Learning that they’re not alone in their experience and anxiety is a big step forward in confidence and capability.
  • A final one-on-one session closes out enrollment in the Community to evalute their expertise and skill in management and leadership and success in attaining their goals.

Who’s the facilitator?

That would be me – Grace Judson, leadership geek, trainer, and consultant, experienced in creating, leading, and growing successful online Communities for over 20 years. Members in past Communities have told me “it’s the best thing that ever happened here.”

Having experienced struggling managers from both sides – working for one and being one! – I am committed, passionate even, about fixing this eminently fixable problem. There is no reason why any fledgling manager should be challenged to “figure it all out” on their own, and there is no reason why employees of those managers should bear the brunt of inexperienced management.

Plus, I have a certificate in Communities of Practice from CPSquare, spent over 20 years in corporate America, 16 of them in executive leadership, and have spent a lifetime learning, practicing, researching, practicing, coaching – you get the idea.

People matter to me. And I want you and your people to work in an environment, a company culture, that’s humane, enjoyable, productive, meaningful, and safe. The first-line manager is a crucial – essential! – part of making that happen.

You can read more about me and my credentials on my About Grace page (opens in a new tab).

The first-line manager is essential

Major research firms have demonstrated this over and over again. The manager is where success happens … or doesn’t.

For small and mid-sized companies, the impact of each manager, for good or ill, is disproportionally large; the smaller you are, the more every employee matters to your culture and therefore to your success.

You may believe that professional development – developing your managers into leaders – is out of reach. Out of reach of your budget, and impossible to fit into your already over-crowded schedule.

I invite you to reconsider.


To learn more and discuss enrolling a cohort, send me an email!

Got questions? Same thing – send me an email!

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