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  • Ronica & Christine

Invest in your Bench: Add Skills Training to Everyday Meetings

Leaders Lack Skills Needed for Current Roles

In our couple of decades of coaching transformation, we’ve noticed that early career leaders and middle managers often lack the skills needed to do their current roles–much less their next roles. We’re just observing, certainly not blaming them. We are inclined to go easy on the people and be harder on the system. These amazing humans spend the majority of their days in meetings, desperately trying to collaborate to create something that no one team, no one part of the business, can create without the others.

One of our core practices at The Welcome Elephant is to use everyday meetings to begin to make change. We add clarity of purpose and outcomes to improve systems thinking; we add a bit of training to help every meeting be a practice session for leadership, EQ, and collaboration skills; and we use each meeting to gradually change the org culture to one of high-performing teams creating great results together.

This year we wrote a workshop version of this practice to help all the amazing leaders and coaches out there who are constantly thinking about improving business results, who are constantly thinking about changing the culture and investing in the amazing humans around them. In the workshop we guide participants through the redesign of a single meeting, adding leadership training and skills practice–while that meeting still meets its original purpose.

Our Workshop: Raising the Bench: Helping multiple levels of leaders grow together

We test drove our workshop at two very different conferences, for very different audiences. We felt honored and lucky, as always, to be selected as speakers to help these groups hone their skills and think about common problems in slightly different ways.

These deliveries–and especially the participation and feedback from the amazing participants–also helped us think about honing the workshop for our amazing clients. We’ll begin delivering this intra-organization version in October 2023.

We believe the workshop can support an organization’s goals of creating better business results and happier humans. In our workshop, we focus on achieving these bigger goals by

  • practicing the behaviors needed to support better business results and happier humans

  • improving everyday meetings and

  • investing every day in raising the bench

  • incorporating habit-change best practices

Let’s share our learning experiences with each conference group, as they brought such neat and varied perspectives.


The yearly Agile conferences typically have a few thousand attendees and the content is designed toward helping change agents coach software organizations to make modern value flow happen. We’ve spoken at this conference many times over the past decade and a half, and we know that our sessions tend to attract senior leaders and the agile coaches who guide them. So for Agile2023, we tailored our workshop to this audience.

The 50ish people in our session were primarily individuals thinking about how to upskill entire programs or entire software organizations with an emphasis on improving business outcomes and changing organizational culture. They imagined redesigning meetings like leadership team weeklies, program or program increment (PI) planning and system demos.

There were great in-room and after-workshop conversations around how to introduce the idea of adding training to meetings so that it wasn’t a surprise, so that it was welcome–not seen as “you don’t have the skills you need so we have to practice” but rather as “hey, we all wish we had more time for training, to invest in ourselves, so we’re going to invest in all of us more regularly, by doing just a little bit each day.”

Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing

Grace Hopper Celebration, the biggest conference for women and non-binary technologists in the world, had about 20,000 in-person attendees this year (and more than 30,000 including virtual attendees). Grace Hopper attendees tend to be more to early- and mid-career, so we tailored our workshop toward aspiring leaders. We invited them to consider what skills they most want to learn and practice, and what skills might best serve their teammates and peers.

Some people imagined asking their immediate boss to redesign a meeting to include leadership training and skills practice. Some people considered how to adjust their 1:1s with their manager.

The impact of this workshop was powerful for this next generation of leaders, it provided space for an increased level of self-empowerment: I don’t need to wait for my company to roll out some big management training program. I can learn and practice and grow–with my teammates–to keep getting better at my current job and get ready for my next role. We were thrilled to watch this powerful realization percolate through the room of almost 800 workshop participants.

One of the interesting things we’ve noticed about bigger conferences like this is that people tend to move together in small groups. I know that for me the space felt more manageable when I was with my own small team of collaborators.

The great thing about this in our workshop was that teammates attended the workshop together and imagined how they could adjust one of their own team’s meetings.

And, those small groups generated a tremendous creative energy.

These teams huddled closely together during the workshop, catching every word from one another, imagining ways to use meetings to uplevel themselves and their colleagues. They reached out afterwards in crews of 4-5 co-workers, abuzz with ideas for taking this back to their organization, redesigning their own meetings and meetings they participate in.

The wonderful team energy and lovely requests for more guidance afterwards have made us even more eager to bring the workshop directly into organizations. We’re committed to helping hundreds of thousands of humans and teams invest in their own growth everyday–through this workshop, through conference talks, and through an upcoming book.

Raising the bench in your organization

In most team sports, we have the concept of the bench–the people who are getting ready to come into the game. You have your substitutions in a soccer game; your fourth line of a hockey team; your sixth person in basketball. Businesses also have a bench–the next set of people who will lead the company. Today's team leads become tomorrow’s line managers become next year’s directors, VPs and executives.

How can you help your bench show up even better in their current roles, AND be ready for the next role – be ready to enter the game?

We would love to work with you to help raise your bench. Please contact us at for more information.


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