Teach, Don’t Tell

A company in growth mode needs a reliable, growing pipeline of leaders. An organization that grooms problem solvers — from the mail room to the board room — will stand poised and ready for each new challenge.

The way to do that is to instill a culture where leaders know it’s better to teach, not tell.

  • We all like to believe we’re exceptional. Deep down many of us believe if we want a job done right, we should do it ourselves. However, taking over a project from a direct report damages their self confidence, their investment in the company and their growth potential.
  • Telling the employee step-by-step how to accomplish a task will get the immediate results you want, but also contribute to many of the same self-defeating side effects you see in the previous example.
  • A successful organization thrives on leaders who teach. They gauge how much a direct report knows, provides guidance where needed, shows them clear expectations and sets them free to solve problems and create.

Teachers use questions to help shape the path to getting the job done. A teacher will not simply tell an employee what needs to be done, but explain the reasoning behind it. Finally, a teacher knows teachable moments arise from mistakes.

Teaching takes more time on the front end. However, failing to teach sets a pattern for wasting time going forward. The rewards of teaching pay off in managers who are truly seen as leaders and in organizations that have the bench strength to be able to handle larger and more complex business issues.

Teach, don’t tell is a key to growth.


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