Trying to share your genuine knowledge and skills with others can be tricky in a professional environment. You have worked hard to acquire the skills that make you the professional beast you are, why not teach others? Unfortunately we are not yet at Matrix level technologies, and we can just Neo our way to learning, nor can we simply share a file from one mind to another. No, unfortunately we still live in a time where skills must be acquired through deliberate learning. Still, helping others learn skills through effective and efficient teaching is a fine art. Through this post I hope to share some thoughts on lessons I have learned to be a better teacher and coach through the years.
For me, I sometimes question knowledge sharing with others and ask myself, was that person even asking for advice from me? I constantly find my self going into situations headfirst, trying to help without even being asked. I reassess what I have communicated to reaffirm the fact that I did, indeed, sound like an idiot. Other times, I finally look up from my 20 minute brain dump diatribe only to find the folks that are trying to learn from me are mystified at what I am sharing. So, what gives, how can we do a better job in our professional lives teaching others what we know in efficient and effective ways?
If you ain’t learnin’, yer burnin’. If you don’t listen to teach then you have no right to preach. Take away whatever mnemonic device you need, but cultures of learning and curiosity start with YOU. Model what you expect others to do. It is really that simple. I have found that learning and teaching is a two way street in the professional sense. If your colleagues see your learning and growth from others on a daily bases, they are going to, themselves, start feeling the need to do so themselves.
ENGAGEMENT!!! This is the second piece of advice I want to share on how to make teaching and coaching others more effective. You did not learn to read by someone only telling you about the concepts of reading. Nope, you stayed engaged in that journey, practicing the concepts in engaging ways. I ask you to think back on ways in which you most effectively learn–most of us need engagement when learning new concepts. This can be as simple as making the learning experience an engaging conversation where you posit interesting questions to the person across the table in a means to get them to the learning objective, or as complex as you want it to be for the person learning. Please, don’t just talk at folks (I realize the irony of a blog lecture articulating this point).
REFLECT–if you are a person that is truly passionate about helping others learn new skills, then this is critical to success. Basketball stars would never play a season without analyzing their game tape. The same should be true of you (while filming can be highly effective, it’s just one means of reflection) and your coaching of others to learn and acquire new skills. What are you doing to fine tune your coaching skills? How are you deliberately reflecting on your teaching habits?
Talking at the person you are coaching is so easy to fall into, but it is also not very effective. Take time to deliberately plan the coaching and learning sessions that you provide to others. Refine these skills constantly. The difference between a good manager and a great manager is, quite simply, the ability to coach and motivate others to achieve business objectives. Great managers are better coaches.