[management by God] ready, set, teach!

Written by Dan King

Christ-follower. husband. father. author of the unlikely missionary: from pew-warmer to poverty-fighter. co-author of activist faith: from him and for him. director of family ministry at st. edward's episcopal church. president of fistbump media, llc.

November 12, 2010

Once when I was really young, I remember that I wanted to take an apple to one of my grade-school teachers. I don’t remember much about the circumstances, but I do remember certain feelings about the event. I know that the whole apple thing is very cliche, but to me as a young boy, I wanted to do something for the teacher that made me happy.

How did she make me happy? By helping me to learn something. To me learning always felt good. And I’ve always had a great deal of respect for the people who’ve helped me to learn something new.

As we move on to the seventh qualification for the executive-leader, we come across the requirement of, “able to teach.”

This one is very near and dear to me, because my profession in the workplace today is in the Learning and Development field. I also feel that this is God’s call on my life. I’ve lead a young adults ministry at the church that I attend, and teach regularly with our church’s school of ministry. I am a teacher/trainer down to the bone, so I couldn’t wait to write about this topic!

First I want to talk about the importance of this skill. Often in the workplace, the responsibility for teaching people is often left up to the “training department”. And when there are problems, many often point out that it is a “training issue” and pass the responsibility off to someone else.

But the important thing to consider here is that developing people is the responsibility of every leader, and not just the training department.

Why? Because as the leader you are responsible for the success of the vision. Therefore you are also responsible for ensuring that the people have the tools and skills needed to achieve that vision. This especially holds true for the people that are closest to you in the reporting structure. You should always be grooming people to move up.

In regards to teaching, there’s a lot of great information out there about how to reach people and have a lasting impact. However, there are a couple of key ideas that I believe are most important to your success as a “teacher”.

First of all, you must consider it your responsibility to ensure that the learning happened.

Anyone can share information, but a great teacher is one who ensures that it actually sinks in. It’s true that the learner has a responsibility to learn, but don’t count on the fact that they think the same way you do. Take it upon yourself to try different approaches, and don’t stop until you’re sure that they “get it”. This leads me to my next point…

You must understand that people learn differently.

People have different learning styles. Simply put, you cannot expect someone who is a visual learner (likes reading, pictures) to learn effectively by telling them the steps that they need to follow. Even if you’re lecturing to the visual learner, you must understand that you need to speak in visual terms… “Imagine a speed boat and a tug boat. This is like your…”.

Typically there are a few standard types of learning styles (visual, auditory, tactual, and kinesthetic). If you understand them well, you can even tell what learning style a person is simply by observing their body language. Often people will tell you how they learn best (even if they do not understand “learning styles”).

The point is that you need to know how your people learn, and take this into consideration when you “teach” them. don’t get frustrated because one person can’t seem to follow verbal instructions the way someone else does. You just may not be communicating to them in a “language” that they understand.

As a leader, YOU are responsible for your employees’ success.

Therefore it’s important to invest in them. I’ve always learned that not only should each of us seek out a mentor in order to develop ourselves, but we should look to mentor someone else as well.

One thing that you’ll discover when you sow into someone else’s success is that they’ll follow you anywhere. There are few things that build a person’s self-esteem better than investing in their success. It not only makes them feel good about themselves, but also about you.

Questions to consider:

  • What are you doing to develop the people on your team?
  • If you moved on to bigger and better things, who would you select to replace you?
  • Why did you pick that person?
  • Are they fully equipped to handle your job?
  • What do you need to be teaching them that you currently are not?
  • What do they want to learn?
  • How can you better contribute to the development required to allow them the growth that they desire?
  • How are you learning to be a better teacher?

See more from the management by God series!


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[management by God] ready, set, teach!

by Dan King time to read: 4 min