Teaching You to Fish

You’ve probably heard the old saying by Lao Tzu, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

It’s a great saying, and applicable to so many different situations.

If you’re a parent, you experience it every day when you teach your kids to do things for themselves. It requires a lot of patience, and in the end it’s worth it. Imagine if you didn’t have the time to teach your child to tie their shoes, and you had to do it yourself for the rest of your life!

What About Giving People Fish at Work?

Ok, so you know I don’t mean actual fish. Rather, I mean metaphorical fish. Do you give people in your office the fish? Or do you teach them?

One of the great skills in leadership is the patience to delegate and teach. So often, especially when new to the manager role, it is much easier to get in there and do it yourself. Click to Tweet

I know what you’re thinking. “I have deadlines and it is more efficient for me to just do this stuff.” I get it, believe me. Not only does it feel like you’re being more efficient, but you also may be the type who gets a rush from doing things yourself and putting out fires.

How does that serve you in the long run? Not well – think about it strategically, and suddenly the firefighting you’ve been doing becomes a terribly inefficient way to run your business.

What if You’re Not a Great Teacher?

When I was a kid I remember tutoring someone in math. I can see it so clearly: I was sitting at the kitchen table and my Mum was pretending not to listen as I explained how to calculate the area of a triangle.

Me (using pencil and paper as I speak): It’s 1/2 b x h.
Student: What do you mean?
Me (underlining the formula): one-half, base times height
Student: I don’t get it.
Me (underlining and speaking slowing): one. half. base. times. height.
Student (wide-eyed): but why?
Me (a bit louder): What don’t you get? 1/2 b x h. That’s the area!
Mum: Ruth, can I talk to you for a second?

I’ve learned a lot since then and I actually enjoy teaching. Am I perfect at it? No. But our clients like our teaching style, so I thought I’d share a few tips with you.

  1. You know more than they do. It’s really helpful to remember this. Not only so you feel confident about what you’re doing, but also so you remember to be humble while sharing your knowledge.
  2. Avoid jargon. Ugh. This is a hard one. It’s really easy to slip in all the company acronyms and buzz words. Try not to.
  3. Draw a Picture As Nicole said last week, the brain processes pictures much more quickly than words. Can you draw a picture (or a process map) to help explain what you’re doing?
  4. Set Expectations. Make sure that the person you’re teaching understands their role in the process and what you expect of them.
  5. Follow Up. After your teaching session, check in within 24 hours. This is the best time to ask for questions that make have occurred to them overnight, to reinforce the main points, and just to reassure them that learning takes time.

At Whiteboard Consulting we love to teach, and we have several courses in Process Improvement, Management Coaching, Project Management and Data Analysis. All of these can be customized for you and your business! In fact, we will be offering some courses to the public this summer. Click here for more info.

Do you give people fish or show them how to fish? Give us a shout via Twitter @whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us at info@whiteboardconsulting.ca/staging.

Tweets by @WhiteboardCons

Until next week!