It’s been said that those who can’t do, teach. But really, those who can do should also teach, as well as those who can’t and everyone in between. Everyone should strive to be a teacher every day because, it not only benefits the people around you, but it benefits you, too.
But how? We each have something we are good at, and no matter how insignificant the lesson may feel, it could be hugely important to the person on the receiving end. You are who you are because of the people who taught you, and you should want to return the favor by passing down as much knowledge as possible.
Think of your work environment, for example. Though you and your coworkers did not all attend the same school and were not taught by the same professors, you all managed to learn the same basic skills of using a computer, printing out documents, and crafting an e-mail. But, say you have a coworker who slipped through the cracks and never learned the basics of writing an e-mail. Instead of letting him send unprofessional, poorly written statements to clients, it would be of great benefit to him and to you to show him the ropes.
This same example can be applied to all areas of life and virtually any profession, but yet is very rarely seen or practiced in the workplace. Instead of passing down valuable knowledge to colleagues, we often resort to a “figure it out on your own” approach that, while sometimes necessary, doesn’t really advance either party’s mission.
Trial and error is important, but so are being given the tools to learn. You don’t have to have a teaching certification or a classroom to pass your expertise along. Instead, practice what you preach and think about your leadership role strategically.
Lead by example.
We’ve already gone over why it’s important to be a teacher, but the how is not quite as straight-forward. You might not think you are capable of teaching or are afraid of passing on inaccurate or bad information, but that’s highly unlikely.
The first thing you need to realize is that in order to instill wisdom you don’t need a lesson plan. Teaching can be as simple as “do as I do”. Leading by example is one of the easiest ways to teach, and requires no more than tackling your own responsibilities the best way you know how and telling others to pay attention.
If you’re a team leader, you know that if you walk into work with a frown, sulking from a loss the day before, your team will probably not perform well that day. A team lead is just that—the harbinger of success for the rest of the pack; a beacon of promise and knowledge for the group. Don’t underestimate the power that your guidance brings to the table.
Have a team member that struggles with making phone calls or nailing down leads? Invite them to sit with you for a few minutes as you’re working through your process. A morning standup or to-do list can only go so far. The real proof is in watching success in action.
The key to a strong team? Support and curiosity.
For some people, the thought of raising their hand in a crowded meeting or tapping a superior on the shoulder for help sends them straight back to the classroom. Asking questions is very difficult for some people, and can end up hurting them in the long run.
You can’t force away someone’s hesitation to ask for help, but you can foster a creative and supportive environment that makes people a little more comfortable in asking questions. Encouraging curiosity in your team and inviting people to raise a hand when they aren’t sure about something doesn’t just benefit them, it makes your workplace stronger and more cohesive.
This type of environment makes it easier for you to get the job done, too. If people feel that they can turn to you for help, you won’t have to worry nearly as much about mistakes going unnoticed or, better yet, mistakes being made at all. And less mistakes equals more productivity.
The best teachers are the ones that make students feel engaged and want to learn more. You can’t do this if you make people afraid to ask, “what’s that?” and “how does that work?”. Open yourself up to the possibility of your role as a teacher everyday—engaging, supporting, and uplifting your peers—and you’ll be the best teacher you can be.
It’s inspiring to inspire.
One of the best parts of teaching is that it not only helps out the student, but the teacher as well. Most professional teachers will tell you that in the day to day, their job is tough. Sometimes it feels like no one is listening, that your lessons are going right over their heads, and that all of the effort you put in isn’t paying off.
However, all it takes is one moment of a spark in someone’s eye—showing you they finally understand what you’re saying—that makes it worthwhile. When you teach someone something, their success is your success. You can take pride in the fact that they utilized the wisdom you provided in order to reach their own goals, and that’s worth celebrating.
Of course, the sole purpose of being a teacher is not to claim ownership over your student’s successes, but to realize that the lessons you passed along are making a difference, and that feels truly rewarding.
Especially when you can teach something to not just one person, but an entire team of individuals. Think about it this way: every person you teach will (hopefully) pass along your lessons to at least one other person, and that person will too, and so on. When you teach, you’re encouraging others to do so, too.
Teaching is a superpower, and whether you’re an artist, salesperson, small business owner, electrician (the list goes on), you should be teaching each and every day. It’s one of the best ways to show pride in what you do—that your knowledge is so valuable, it would be a disservice not to share it.
Don’t just sit by and keep everything you’ve learned to yourself when it is of such benefit to others, and yourself, to pass it along. Encourage people to take note of your processes, ask questions when they aren’t sure, and put your teachings into action. You’ll both be better for it.