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Great Managers Teach (When They Should)

Great Managers Teach (When They Should)

Great Managers cultivate a work environment where lifelong learners thrive. Everyone simply learns for the sake of learning, thrilling to its personal reward. In these workplaces, curiosity is admired and all ideas are prized, and the Great Managers are those who facilitate the learning process in which those ideas incubate until innovation breaks through. People grow magnificently in the process.

Among studies of their own, managers will learn how to be a great teacher and coach, and with teaching in the workplace, their “how to be a great teacher” starts with knowing when to be one.

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All managers must be able to coach, however sometimes their best tactic in the beginning of the learning process is having someone else do the initial teaching. At the start of learning something, the student must be inspired to learn it, and the Great Manager honestly assesses if they are up to the teacher’s challenge to inspire or not. One of the worst things you can do to the adult learner at work is sit them in a class taught by an awful teacher.

Knowledge of a subject is just bare bones. It takes talent and skill to teach well. Savvy managers will choose what they should teach personally, and when they should enlist the help of another trainer to do it for them. At times you may need experts, but ‘enlist’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘hire’ and the right teacher may even work somewhere else in your own organization. You can trade audiences with them, giving your staff fresh inspiration from the person best suited to give it, while you get more practice teaching in your own area of expertise.

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When you teach, you are presenting new knowledge you want people to be excited about learning. Most learning takes some time, and they’ve got to be willing to stay the course. You may have significant passion for it, yet at times, too much passion can be a liability too; skillful teachers can tone down their passion enough for the hesitant or intimidated learner to meet them at a more comfortable place. They’ll teach in smaller bites, teaching patiently and artfully until that student can answer their own “What’s in this for me” question, and then arrive at their passion for it.

Keep in mind that in-person and by a person teaching isn’t always required. Depending on the subject, books and training videos or online programs may be options, and individual, self-paced formats may actually work better. Customize teaching by taking advantage of the variety of options available.

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Don’t take it personally. Even the best teachers don’t teach everything well. They are perceived to be among the best because they’ve chosen their specialty, and matched it up with both their passion for teaching it, and their desire to have their students share in the experience of their subject’s learning. They understand that teaching is more about the way the student learns best, and much less about the teacher.

So learn a lesson from other Great Managers and don’t expect the unreasonable from your own ability to teach. Be selective and teach when you are the one most effective with the subject at hand; work dishes up a lot of possibilities! Give yourself a break, and enlist the right help for the other training your staff needs.

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Then, participate in learning it right alongside them. Take your lead thereafter in the follow-up so crucial with comprehension, adaptation, and retention — coach them in the execution of what has just been learned. Getting the new learning you’ve both experienced to stick so it was all worth the effort will be the best contribution you make.

Update: Related article written for www.managingwithaloha.com;
Great Managers Teach Well
Post Author:
Rosa Say is the author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business. She fervently believes that work can inspire, and that great managers and leaders can change our lives for the better. She writes for Lifehack.org to freely offer her coaching to those of us who aspire to be greater than we are, for she also believes in us. Writing on What Great Managers Do is one of her favorite topics.

More by this author

Rosa Say

Rosa is an author and blogger who dedicates to helping people thrive in the work and live with purpose.

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

Curiosity

Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

Patience

Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

A Feeling for Connectedness

This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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1. Research

Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

Learning the Basics

Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

Hitting the Books

Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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Long-Term Reference

While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

2. Practice

Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

3. Network

One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

4. Schedule

For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

Final Thoughts

In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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