Leaders as Teachers and Coaches

December 9, 2020

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Leaders as Teachers and Coaches

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“I’m not good at reading like my brother is,” lamented David.

“And I don’t like math,” said his brother, Kevin.

There they were, two students from the same family, each with strengths and self-proclaimed weaknesses.

How is it that, by the end of the year, David had read the most books and Kevin loved math?

Very simply, the teacher took the time to learn about each boy as an individual. David was tender-hearted and never wanted to disappoint anyone. He loved animals and looked after his little sisters on the way to school.

Kevin was the rugged, outdoors type. Being inside a classroom all day, sitting still at a desk, was tortuous.

The teacher took a tailored approach for each.

She taught Daniel how to enunciate as he read, which had the effect of him being part of the story. One day, when he was frustrated and wanted to quit, the teacher told him the story of a boy who did quit school and how it hurt his family when he did so. With tears in his eyes, he picked up the book and tried again, this time with success. The next day, he bought the teacher a gift. After that, he outpaced his brother on the book-reading charts.

Kevin, on the other hand, required an entirely different approach. For him, competition was a great motivator. The teacher created a fast-paced, physically aggressive math contest where he could move around the room as he progressed. From that day on, he never again muttered, “I hate math.” In fact, it became his favorite subject.

It is all about perspective.

The David’s and the Kevin’s in school are not so vastly different from the David’s and Kevin’s (and Mary’s and Susan’s) in the workplace. If they are not motivated according to their interests, they will feel like they cannot measure up, or they may complain about how much they hate their work.

As a leader, you can take a teacher-coach approach to tailor their environment, so they are motivated and engaged.

The first key is to know their strengths and very strategically align their work to those strengths.

The advantage to them is obvious. But it also a win for the company. People who love what they do produce to higher levels.

The second key is to help them recognize the parts of their work that engage their strengths.

A spreadsheet, for example, can be numbers on a grid that feel like kryptonite to many; or it can be a scoreboard for results or a representation of people who are served.

The third key is to create a physical environment that fits.

The cubicle / open space / private office debate has made its rounds for decades.

“Which is right for your team?”

The answer is likely, “All of them.”

Some on your team will thrive in open concept areas, while others will have a hard time being productive without some quiet, more private space.

Take a lesson from the staff and educators at Woodward Children’s Center. They have found success for decades by taking a tailored approach to educating individuals.

How will you be a teacher-coach for your team?

One day, years later, Kevin saw his teacher across the room during a public meeting. He came over and shook her hand. Then, with unusual timidity, shuffling slightly, he said, “You were the best teacher I ever had.” And he walked away.

Can you imagine how it would be to know you had that same effect on your employees? Someday, perhaps decades hence, one of them could come to you and say, “You were the best leader I ever had.”

This is the point where you humbly realize you have made a difference in someone’s life. According to The 5 Levels of Leadership by John C. Maxwell, this is the Pinnacle of leadership.

Will you be that kind of leader?

This holiday season, take some time to thank a teacher-coach who has made a difference in your life. Then decide to be that kind of leader for your team!

If you’d like to learn more about Woodward Children’s Center or make a donation to support their efforts in changing lives, click here.

As the CEO of Strength Leader Development, Deb Ingino is a highly sought-after international executive mentor, coach, trainer, and speaker. Deb is well versed in global business operations and helps business leaders and their teams to discover and leverage their strengths, so they can create highly collaborative teams that deliver great results. With a refreshingly direct style, and using the Maxwell Method, Deb helps leaders and teams to deliver profitable results. Connect with Deb to learn more about her mentorship and coaching programs to equip you with advanced strategies to elevate your results.