We’ve all heard variations of the joke; those who can’t do – teach. There may be a few individuals that applies to, however the best managers, business owners and spiritual leaders all have one thing in common; they teach others what they know. They share their experiences, their knowledge and their educated opinions with those they come into contact with. When we hear the word teacher, we conjure up the memories of being a student when there was a particular teacher or professor that inspired us. They taught us to view the world and ourselves differently. It’s only with life experience that we realize teachers have many titles; parent, neighbor, minister, friend or co-worker. These are people we have to thank for life’s lessons.
An old friend sent me a message that contained a letter his cousin, Brenda, wrote for his parent’s retirement party. I read the heartfelt letter written about Brenda’s first job. Her words were about what she learned from her first boss which also happened to be my first boss. He was the franchisee for a fast food chain and he was a teacher. She talked about working the fry station and when it was noticed that she wasn’t weighing the fries, he showed her how to use the scale. As I read, my first thought was cost control (years spent in management does that to you) but that wasn’t the lesson he was teaching. Brenda was told to weight the fries because she appeared to be shorting the customer and they should be getting what they paid for. What a great lesson for a young person to learn; provide value and live up to the customer’s expectations.
How many lessons have you learned from a boss that were so much more than a simple directive? How many of those lessons did you go on to share with others? Thirty years ago, I had a district manager named Darnell when I was a store manager for Best Products. As we walked the sales floor we were discussing merchandising and how to get the customers to pay attention to displays. Evidently some of them didn’t make much sense, so he told me to make an open fist and look through the hole like I was looking through a camera lens. Did the picture make sense? Was it a single theme that drew your eye to products we wanted to sell? I know it seems a bit silly but that one lesson taught me to merchandise end caps, vignettes and floor displays which drove sales. When I was the president of a decor company, I used this method to develop the merchandising guidelines for our stores. I also taught hundreds of others to examine their creations through the lens of their hand. They in turned shared with others. By Darnell sharing a small tidbit, his idea spread to thousands.
When we examine our own motivations for doing whatever we do, at the base is usually wanting to make a difference. Oh, that gets lost as we focus on spreadsheets and profit margins, employee challenges and market share. Yet, somewhere in the back of our minds we know that there was a point in our lives when we were idealistic and believed we could make a difference. I’m here to tell you that no matter what your current job or position, you can make a difference, by teaching others what you know.
There’s a wonderful result for you, when you share what you know by teaching others. You become better. Your skill evolves. Your self-confidence grows. I was talking to my son who is a dance instructor. When he began this job a year ago he didn’t know how to dance, however he was athletic and personable so he followed his dream and applied for a job with Arthur Murray. On Saturday he told me that he is teaching the majority of the time now and has found that his skills are improving faster by teaching than just practicing. When I watched a video and compared it to some from just a couple months ago, I could see marked improvement. That got me thinking about what made me good at my job and I realized that I grew and improved faster when I had the responsibility of training others. When we teach, we must anticipate questions, we must find solutions that will allow our student to succeed. Teaching, by it’s very nature, makes us stretch and expand our own self imposed boundaries.
The opposite of this is unfortunately found across corporate America. Those individuals who feel threatened in their position, who believe that if they teach others what they know they will lose out, and they watch as their co-workers flounder. They rejoice in keeping knowledge to themselves, their warped way of thinking operating off the belief that they are safer by keeping others in the dark. Wow, that sounds like our political system. Anyway, it is the people who refuse to teach who are the losers for they miss out on all the benefits that teaching provides.
True leaders, no matter what their field of expertise, understand that teaching others must be at the top of the priority list. Assisting others in their journey requires the giving of oneself. The giving of your time, your knowledge and your life experience to those who desire to learn sends ripples out into the universe. Who knows, like Darnell, you may provide a tidbit that ends up reaching thousands. So what is it you are going to teach today?
Teaching is one of the skills that true leaders make a habit. To develop all of your leadership skills to your full potential, check out my Leadership Online Class . Many blessings to you.