To Be a Good Manager, You Have to Be a Good Teacher
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Newer leaders sometimes assume their team has the skill or knowledge to successfully carry out the work they have assigned to them. But it may not be the case.
Some may be willing to acknowledge their need for help and readily ask for it. Others may not and instead search the internet to instruct them on how to tackle the task. Instead of leaving things to chance, effective leaders can learn to be inspired teachers.
Not everyone learns the same way. Some people need extensive knowledge and preparation to build their confidence before starting a new task; others prefer to learn through trial and error. Some people learn well in groups while others prefer to learn independently.
If you know what your team members prefer, you can offer guidance to each individual.
Ask your direct reports what they prefer a hands-on experience or do they prefer some time to think on their own before tying. If you notice someone struggling, ask what you can do that would be most helpful.
Great teachers know that learning is a consequence of thinking, not of teaching.
Ask open-ended questions to draw out what specifically the person is struggling with. Help them make connections between previous relevant experience and previously developed skills.
For example, someone struggling to learn how to write technical content for a non-technical audience: "Tell me about a time when you had to explain your work to a friend or family member who didn't understand it. How did you do it?"
Letting someone know that you struggled to learn the skill you’re now teaching them can ease the pressure people may feel to "look good" in front of the boss.
Stay empathic and keep your past struggles in mind. “I know this is hard, and the fact that I’m here probably makes it harder. Would it help to hear an experience I had struggling to learn something similar and how I got through it?”
Sometimes it's helpful to demonstrate to learners how something is done. Ask your learner if it would be helpful to demonstrate. Ensure that you're not conveying that this is precisely how they should do it.
After you offer a demonstration, ask your learner, "What did you see that was helpful?"
Once you've given someone "a lesson," they may be more sensitive to your scrutiny. You don't want them thinking that every time they present, they'll be evaluated. Rather than letting them become hypervigilant, set expectations about how and when your next observation of their performance will be.
When you have observed them, ask how did they feel that went? What would they say went well, and what would they do differently?
If the task you're asking someone to take on has a particular sense of urgency, you will feel a sense of impatience, even frustration, as your learner works to apply new skills.
Any new skill is a process of “three steps forward, two steps back,” especially in the early weeks of learning.
Agree with your learner when you will check in on progress. for some, it may be every week, and for others, every month may be more appropriate.
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