Hey Managers – Are You Both Learning and Teaching Enough?

BY K.B. Reidenbach // Managing Partner

Management is time consuming. Aside from being accountable for both your work and the work of your direct reports, you must also find the time to think about strategy, prioritization, process, opportunity, costs, team growth and a thousand other things that can battle for your attention throughout the course of a workday.

However, I think there are 2 areas of management that not only deserve the bulk of our attention but can arguably have the most positive impact on our business: Learning and Teaching.

I recently came across a 2016 article published by the Harvard Business Review about an amazing fast-food chain called Pal’s Sudden Service. In the article we learn that not only is Pal’s the model of efficiency and accuracy in the fast-food segment, but they are also deeply committed to learning and teaching. The positive impacts of that commitment have been enormous for Pal’s. What can re-focusing on education and training do for your team? Are you as a leader spending enough time learning and then passing on that knowledge in a way that fosters meaningful growth? 

I asked myself those same questions. Through my answers I came to the self-realization that I have to do better in these areas. I think many of us in management probably all need to do better and the U.S. Bureau of Labor supports that statement. According to their statistics, companies with fewer than 100 employees provide only 12 minutes of manager training every six months. Organizations with 100-500 employees provide only 6 minutes of management training.

How do you expect your team to grow without the commitment to learning and teaching?

I have challenged myself to recommit to the education of my team. I challenge you to do the same.

Is it time consuming? Yes. Is it worth it? Hell yeah!

 I do believe that the best managers are the best teachers. Before you can be a great teacher, you must also be a great learner.

Therefore, I have approached my re-commitment to education in the following manner:

1. Re-embracing the constant quest for improvement.

While there is a lot that goes into being a manager, constantly evaluating your environment and focusing on the signals of change is a key component to day-to-day leadership. It is then up to us as leaders to acknowledge those evolutions and react quickly to capitalize on strategic opportunities (and this process happened quite frequently throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic). To do this, you cannot simply rest on what you already know, but you must be receptive and willing to learn in the face of business shifts. Adopting the growth mindset is step one.

2. Seeking out and deciphering information.

Based on the growth opportunities I have recognized for my team; I then seek information to help guide me. I can use that perspective to connect the dots between ideas, opportunities and my team to start to form educational moments that result in meaningful growth. A part of that process is designing the knowledge flows that create new ways of thinking and empower our teams to better deliver excellence for our clients.

3. Start teaching.

As a manager, you should already have a wealth of resources, ideas, and experiences to share with your team. It is now on you to pass on both older and newer learnings in a structured way that allows for retention and application of the information. This can come in the form of playbooks, group training sessions or individual coaching. The important thing is to ensure the information is framed up in a way in which the following elements are clear:

·       How does this information impact the expectations of a team member?

·       How does this information lead to growth?

·       How does this information impact ongoing delivery?

·       How does this information permeate throughout the organization?

·       How can this information be referenced in the future?

A big part of being an effective manager is understanding how to prioritize your time. The best leaders know that even the smallest amount of intention and effort placed upon team member training is time well spent. This process starts by always being on a quest for new perspectives that will help you and your team grow. This process then yields amazing results when you then embrace the role of teacher and accelerate your team’s development to drive better delivery.

Henry Ford said it best: “The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.”

It’s time for us all as managers to embrace this key responsibility we all have around being constant learners and committed teachers. If we aren’t doing these things, then you must ask yourself: are you really leading?