Managers, It’s in your Best Interest to Optimize Teachable Moments

June 11, 2017 | Bill Catlette | HCI
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Along with having a paid occupation, my daughter is wife to a USCG airman, a mom to five children, and home school teacher.

If anyone can appreciate what it’s like to be a Level 1 or 2 manager in today’s workspace, she can. Her nonstop day starts early and ends late, and her constituents don’t always play fair or have her best interests at heart.

She consistently prioritizes finding and using teachable moments for her young charges. The way she sees it, many of her daily activities and challenges contain such opportunities, and it’s in everyone’s best interest for her to harvest them, make use of teachable moments wherever and whenever they occur, and thus insure that the team she fields tomorrow is incrementally more capable than the one she has today.

Your situation really isn’t so different. A chief determinant of your success is your ability to grow and leverage talent that is available to you. No one else is doing it for you.

Be ever mindful of teaching opportunities: Lessons for your employees spring from preparing a budget presentation, recruiting a new team member, or facilitating a team meeting. First, realize that something you’re working on might be a highly useful learning platform to your team, if well shared.

It might slow you down a half-step to encourage one or more teammates to ride along as a learning experience, but everyone involved will reap the rewards of their added insight. More often than not, that’s a good tradeoff.

Know your mates: Before you offer someone a job, (even if it’s only a limited assignment or a matrixed staffer), make sure you learn about their personal and professional goals, strengths, knowledge and experience gaps, and what their preferred learning style is. It won’t take more than 15 minutes to have that conversation and add it to your personal notes. With that knowledge, have regular developmental conversations with your teammates, and when you spot an opportunity that matches their needs and interests, seize it. Doing so increases their engagement and your street cred as a leader of choice.

Surround yourself with active learners: People who don’t know what they don’t know, and who aren’t especially interested in learning new skills pose great danger to teamwork and productivity. If a job candidate can’t articulate how they learn best, and succinctly describe two recent things they’ve learned, strongly consider taking a pass on them, regardless of how much talent or experience they have.

Practice what you preach: Owing to shortened job tenure and the amount of fear resident in the workplace, too many people are choosing to “fake it until they make it.” If people on your team see you sharpening your own skills as a matter of course, then you’ll have much greater credibility and reduce self-consciousness on their part while trying new skills.