When I’m writing, it’s as though I’m sealed up in a cocoon. That shell protects from outside interference like children, TV, and barking dogs.
What I’m hoping to teach my kids is the value of hard work, persistence, and concentration. I hope that I’m setting a stellar example sitting there banging at the keys, staring at the screen, and occasionally scratching my head in those “aha” moments.
Of course, they may not see the message I want to send. If they want my attention, they’ll perceive me as short-tempered, rude, and self-absorbed when I respond with irritation at the interruption.
You see, you cannot not teach.
I’d also say that you teach not only with words but with example.
When the two don’t match, you send mixed lessons to the people you lead. It doesn’t matter whether you’re at home, at work, or leading a community organization. What you’ll find is that your words don’t mean much to people when they see that you don’t do what you say.
Expertise is No Guarantee
If you’ve done the same job for 20 years, you might be tempted to think you know it all. After all, you’ve seen just about everything you can imagine. You’ve heard all the excuses people use. You know what to say to get what you want. You know what good results are when you see them.
But knowing all that doesn’t mean you can teach it someone else very well.
Let’s take a look at how you can transfer your knowledge to those you lead. If you can do that, you’ll equip them to do the things you do now.
4 Simple and Proven Ways You Can Teach Those You Lead
Every successful outcome has a strategy behind it. Here are some methods you can use now. There is an education required, but it doesn’t mean you need to sign up for 4 years of college to learn them. If you’ll implement all of these, you’ll become an excellent teacher for those you lead.
1. Tell them the “What” and the “How”.
When I was a teenager, my dad taught me how to change the oil in my car. First, he told me what to do. Then he showed me how to do it. The next time, I did it.
This is a great way to teach anybody anything.
There are 5 steps within this step. You might remember them with this little lyric: “Every Dull Cow Reads Hobbes.” Sure, it’s silly. But if something is unusual, it’s got a great chance of sticking in your memory. And you’ll notice the first letter of each word corresponds with the first letter of the following steps.
A. Educate. This is where you tell them what to do. You also show them how to do it. To make sure that anyone can understand, involve all the senses you can into your curriculum.
For example, when I changed my oil I learned about what I would see. I’d lie under the car and watch the stream of dirty oil fall into the pan and wait for the stream to stop. I’d see the clean oil going into the opening in the engine. I’d need to see the oil filter and drain plug in place with no drip to know I’d finished.
I’d hear some things too. I’d hear the stream hit the pan when it first started to flow. I’d hear the ratchet turn as I loosened and tightened the drain plug. I’d hear myself grunt when I put my muscle into twisting off the oil filter.
If I stuck my hand into the stream of oil I might feel a burning sensation if I didn’t allow the engine sufficient time to cool off.
Do you understand how involving all these senses makes your teaching more effective in reaching more people?
B. Demonstrate it. Show them how you want the job to be done. Give them a chance to ask questions. Check with them occasionally to make sure they are receiving the message you’re sending.
Then let them do it.
C. Critique. When someone begins something new, they’ll need more hand-holding to gain their balance.
If you’ve ever taught a child to ride a bike, you know you can’t just throw her out on the road the minute after you take the training wheels off. You’ll have to walk behind her a few times and hold on while she builds her balance. She’ll have to get stronger to be able the balance that bike the way the training wheels did.
Then, after she’s gained some ability, you let go. If you’ll take the time in the formative stages to teach her the proper technique, you’ll help her form better habits.
D. Repeat it. This is how we build habits. We do the same thing over and over until it becomes second nature. But at first, you have to talk yourself through it, don’t you? When you learned to drive a car, you said, “Okay, now press the gas slowly. Okay… whoa, look out for that dog!!” Then you slam on the brakes.
You’re pretty unsure at first. It’s one thing to know it in the classroom. It’s quite another to test what you know in the real world. But until you do, do you really know the material?
E. Habit. This is the ultimate outcome of teaching. If you do the previous steps right, this will be a state of unconscious competence. If you don’t, you’ll have to repeat them and form a new habit.
2. Realize that everyone learns differently.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could tell someone something once and that was enough? They’d immediately get it and you could go on with your busy day.
Most people don’t learn that way.
If you want to be a great teacher, you’ll have to have a giant dose of patience.
Find out how the one you’re teaching learns best. Does she need to see it to get it? Or does she learn more easily with verbal instructions? Maybe she needs to put her hands on it to really understand it.
Spend the most time teaching the way your people learn best.
3. Give it in bite-sized portions.
There’s a reason that college takes 4 years or more.
And no, it’s not just because they want to make a fortune from the cost of your education.
You couldn’t learn 4 years worth in a day. You can’t eat a whole Thanksgiving turkey in one bite. The first would cause a lot of confusion. The second would bring a major case of indigestion.
If you want your material to be most effectively absorbed, give it in bite-sized portions. Isn’t that the way you’d eat an elephant? Don’t you climb a mountain one step at at time?
If you offer too much too fast, you’ll just have to do it all over again. Save time by parcelling it out in chunks that are manageable.
4. Always be learning yourself.
The day you think you know it all, you’re the greatest fool of all.
When you think you know it all, you shut your mind to any new possibilities. New research might enhance what you know. Better practices might lead you to reevaluate your own methods. Unless you’re open to continuous improvement, you’ll get left behind to rust and fade away into obscurity.
Stay current. Keep your mind active. Fred Smith, Sr, said that leaders are readers. It’s the easiest way to keep your edge. If you don’t, your blade will become so dull, it will take a lot of sharpening to get it back.
It’s one the most useful habits you can acquire as a leader.
A Commencement Message
You’ve reached the end of this lesson.
When you’re done with your formal education, they hold a commencement ceremony.
Why do they call it a commencement? Because that’s where life begins, isn’t it? That’s where you begin to put into practice what you’ve spent all that time learning.
If you’ll put into practice these 4 steps, you’ll not only be a great leader, you can call yourself a teacher.
Then you’ll be a lot like Coach Wooden. Who knows? Maybe they’ll write about you someday!