Teacher: Imparting New Skills
A teacher is someone with expert skills and knowledge who has the ability to share this expertise with others. A good teacher — one whose students learn — improves both the individual and the company. But it isn't always easy to find a balance between “Let me show you” and “Get out of the way, I'll do it myself!”
A small software company hired Miguel to do its PR. The company chose Miguel because he was good at explaining technical concepts to nontechnical people. But Miguel had never used his skills to write marketing materials, and his debut in his new job was less than spectacular. In fact, it was a bit of a dismal spectacle.
After bleeding all over Miguel's first few attempts with her red pen, Miguel's manager called him into her office. For the rest of the afternoon, she became his journalism teacher. She explained and demonstrated the basic principles of journalism. She showed him how to establish those principles — who, what, where, when, and why — in the first paragraph of virtually anything he might write. She showed him how to make up quotes that would pass muster with corporate executives, how to put words in their mouths that they would wish they had actually said (and would say, after reading the stories generated by the press release).
Now, Miguel's manager could just as easily have reamed him out. After all, Miguel had been hired to write press releases and he wasn't doing a very good job of it. Miguel's manager could have counseled him for his unacceptable job performance and placed a memo in his personnel file.
But she didn't. She put on her teacher hat and turned her office into a classroom. She not only showed Miguel just what she wanted him to do, she also taught him the skills he needed to apply the same lesson to other situations. For a few weeks after, Miguel's manager met with him to strategize the approach for each new press release. Miguel went to his desk to do the writing, then sat down with his manager to review the results.
Within a few months, Miguel was getting compliments from senior executives. Not only did Miguel's skill level improve tremendously, but his self-confidence grew as well. He even enrolled in an evening continuing education class at a local community college to further hone his writing skills.
Not all situations end in such success, of course. Some people resist the suggestion that they need to clean up rusty skills or learn new ones. Some managers lose patience when improvements fail to be immediate and dramatic. Some managers know what they want from their employees but don't know how to express their needs in ways their employees understand. If the teaching hat doesn't fit you very well, consider alternatives (as your budget allows):
Hire consultants to conduct workshops or seminars for your work group or department.
Send employees to training courses (all expenses paid, of course).
Reimburse or otherwise compensate employees for taking classes that directly improve their job skills.