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Joan Nakhoul
Why Manager Training Needs to Change: Insights from Kona’s Co-Founder
Feb 09, 2024
5 Minutes

People teams face an uphill battle in creating programs that stick. Manager training has long followed a formula of generic courses, workshops, and lectures.


These methods simply don’t resonate with managers who have meetings and urgent deliverables on their plate. 


Even if they find time to attend training, managers struggle to adopt new skills and behaviors without ongoing reinforcement and support.


The shift to hybrid and remote work adds to these challenges. Managing distributed teams requires a new toolkit – one that’s rarely covered in traditional training. As managers navigate this uncharted territory, companies urgently require new approaches to development. Training must adapt to the needs of time-crunched managers and flexible work realities.


But what if there was a way for team leaders, corporate instructors, and managers to access an efficient and ready-made solution, one that really engages team members and drives skill growth even remotely?


To learn more, we had a chat with Siddharth Pandiya, co-founder of Kona, a leadership coaching platform dedicated to closing the remote management gap with an AI-powered approach.

The Problem: Why Current Trainings Fall Short

During our discussion, Siddharth outlined several limitations with traditional manager training when asked about the current challenges:

Lack of time

In fast-scaling startups, managers juggle numerous responsibilities, balancing individual contributor tasks with managerial duties. Their hectic schedules make it challenging to prioritize and allocate time for extensive training programs. Sidd also observes that managers who engage in individual contributor work tend to stick to what they perceive as safe. Consequently, fostering effective team collaboration and maximizing team performance become considerably more difficult.

Challenges in applying skills

Even managers who attend training struggle to adopt new skills and behaviors. Sidd explains, "I might come and watch a course on feedback. But how do I apply that after the fact and actually build the habit of giving feedback consistently?" The training fails to translate into changed habits on the job.

Misaligned content

The generic management courses we know rarely connect directly to a manager's daily responsibilities and workflows. But real learning happens when training is tightly aligned to activities like 1-on-1s, performance reviews, and routine coaching conversations. Without relevance to their work, managers gain little value from broad training content.

As Sidd mentioned, traditional approaches to manager training make it hard for leaders to find the time, apply the skills, and see true relevance to their real management responsibilities. For training to stick, the content and delivery must adapt to the busy realities of startup managers.

The Challenges of Remote Work in Manager Training

While strong management fundamentals remain constant, leading distributed teams requires some changes and adaptations. As Sidd explained, managers encounter new realities in a remote setting


  • Daily video calls lead to Zoom fatigue and tiredness for managers who are not used to full remote collaboration. Intentionality around scheduling and camera use is very important.


  • Time zones make aligning live training across global teams difficult. Training programs must embrace asynchronous learning formats.


  • Conversations around feedback and career development lack the in-person body language cues managers rely on. Developing these communication skills remotely takes practice.


  • Home environments with family members or distractions can influence engagement during remote coaching. Managers must learn techniques to maintain focus.


As Sid summarized, the actual requirements of a remote manager are in a few ways fundamentally different. From engagement to feedback, excelling at the tactics of remote management demands competencies beyond those covered in traditional training. With the right training and intentionality, these challenges of distributed leadership can absolutely be overcome.

How to make training actually fun and engaging
Quick and Accessible Learning

Sid focused on the need for speed in learning, stating, "People are looking for shortcuts and you need to find a way to combine quick learning in a way that actually builds skills over time... but it needs to feel very quick and easy to use."

Highly Practical and Applicable

On the practicality of training, Sid explained, "It needs to be directly related to something you need to do in your job today... That's much more applicable to their world."

Accountability for Learning

Sid further discussed the importance of accountability in learning, stating, "There needs to be some sort of accountability for learning, whether that's gamification, whether that's social accountability through peers, whether that's through making it a required part of your job."

Key Takeaways

In wrapping up the insights and discussions with Siddharth Pandiya, Co-Founder of Kona on changing and enhancing manager enablement, and the importance of a learning-first mindset within organizations, here are some key takeaways and advice for leaders aiming to foster a culture of continuous growth and improvement:


  • Prioritize Manager Development: Despite the fast-paced environment of hyper-growth startups, it’s so important for leadership teams to prioritize manager learning and development. Sid’s observations highlight the common oversight of manager development due to immediate business pressures but support the necessity for executives to embody and promote a learning-first mindset.


  • Create Space for Learning: Execs and senior leaders need to allocate a portion of their and their teams’ time towards learning and skill improvement, ensuring long-term success for the individual and the organization. This includes staying on top of industry news and upskilling managers.


  • Lead by Example: The impact of top executives participating in or endorsing learning initiatives cannot be overstated. Sid notes the significant increase in engagement and participation in training sessions when CEOs demonstrate their commitment to learning, either by participating in training sessions or encouraging their teams through personalized messages.Think of it as a domino effect throughout the organization.  A culture that values continuous learning at the top will cascade down, influencing every level of the organization and fostering an environment where growth and development are a big part to the organization’s success.


If you’d like to know more about Siddharth or Kona, check them out on Linkedin or Kona’s website


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