The teaching element of leadership is so often overlooked and overshadowed by more glamorous things like vision, strategy and execution.
But in the end, it is probably the most gratifying part of leadership, because when you do connect with someone this way, and they get it, they thrive and grow, and even surpass you, the resulting feeling of satisfaction is unlike anything else.
Because it gets you right in the heart. Hitting a metric just doesn’t do the same thing.
But we must be careful not to morph what we believe is “teaching” into just simply “telling”. Because, after all, the very definition of “lead” begins with “show the way“.
It can be time consuming. It can be frustrating. It’s a lot harder than just barking out the orders and hoping they’ll be followed.
But leaders must teach.
And through the years I’ve discovered 6 keys to being an effective teacher in the workplace:
1) Say it again (and again) – Anyone who’s worked for me knows “Terry’s Rule” – if you want someone to really remember something, you have to say it 15 times. It may seem weird to sound like a broken record all the time, but it really does work. Here are more of my thoughts on the science of repeating things repeatedly.
2) Be Consistent– Or better said, No hypocrisy! Saying one thing and doing another is a horrible way to teach. And, it will drive your staff crazy in the process. Like, for example, saying to your staff that quality and service are THE most important things, and then the next day saying getting it done as fast as possible is the most important.
3) Use Plain English – The less your staff reach for the dictionary, the better. I used to tell my managers that we weren’t paid by the word. What I’ve learned is that there’s much more directness and economy needed in business communication. Less is usually more. There’s not much room for nuance, or expansive prose.
4) Display Common Sense – This comes into play in a couple of important ways – by thinking before we speak, and by simply having an awareness of when you really, really need to teach to keep a bad outcome from happening. All too often the “too obvious” gets pushed aside – it can’t be that uncomplicated, could it? We need more analysis! We need more study! We need more committees! Nope, we just need common sense. As a teacher, it’s OK to to a master of the obvious. You might not be crowned a genius by your peers – just as someone who teaches people to “get stuff done”. I’ll take that any day.
5) Put your “Hands On” – The benefits of rolling up the sleeves and showing how it’s done goes well beyond just the teaching value – it’s a fabulous team builder too. As they say, “an ounce of demonstration is worth a pound of explanation“.
6) Infuse Focus AND Fun – Teachers should never instruct “sans raison et sans plaisir“; translated, “without reason and without pleasure“. Think about that one. I’ll further explain this through the lens of a piano teacher I’ve admired over the years, who said “The instructor who does not have his task at his fingers’ ends, technically as well as intellectually, will never be able to inspire his students to their best efforts”. Leaders MUST be able to infuse focus AND fun into their teaching.
So, don’t forget to teach and not tell, and, as always…
Note: This lesson can also be found in my FREE e-book,“Leadership From a Glass Half-Full – The 5 Lessons You Need To Learn Before You Jump Into The Pool” – download it now!