Home Business-newBusiness From Colleague to Coach: Developing Effective Teaching Skills in the Workplace

From Colleague to Coach: Developing Effective Teaching Skills in the Workplace

by Yucatan Times
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Teaching others is a skill that has a myriad of applications regardless of your career path or place of work. At some point or another, we will all learn skills that others will find useful. Being able to pass those skills on to others will only magnify the positive impact we can have on them. It’s not easy, though – you don’t necessarily need an online Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership (although it certainly wouldn’t hurt) because anyone can have a go at teaching others, but it takes skill, experience, tact, and patience to teach well.

Peer-to-Peer Teaching

Heck, you don’t even really need to be a manager, director, elder, or any sort of “official leader” to teach others. The concept of peer-to-peer teaching is a crucial part of leadership, and all teaching is some type of leadership, but you don’t need a title to share your knowledge. It can be tricky, though – sometimes coworkers might feel threatened or feel that you’ve exceeded your rank if you try to tell them how something is done without getting a real rank up first. Nonetheless, it’s often part of the process of graduating to a leadership role, so transcending that rank consciousness is something you’ll want to do if you plan on moving up in the world.

One of the real unspoken hacks to effectively teaching others is, pure and simple, be yourself. Try not to change your normal demeanor or mode of interaction; it’s easy to fall into speaking in an overly formal manner when you’re instructing someone else, but if that person is accustomed to seeing you as a peer, you might want to try to curb that instinct.

Sometimes, when you don’t have an official position of authority, it’s good to frame any kind of teaching as teamwork. Working together with someone can allow you to show them how to get the job done without presuming any kind of position over them. After all, what matters most is making sure the job gets done; if that means simply stepping through the task while your peer watches enough times for them to begin absorbing your knowledge, then hey, it takes whatever it takes.

Being a good peer can be tough. Sometimes it’s not you, or your tone, or anything else; some people are just tough to coach. If you think there’s ground to be gained, stick with it and do your best, but it’s just as important to know when to cut your losses and move on as it is to know when to persist – this kind of intuition normally comes with time. At the end of the day, all you can really do is be respectful and try to share what you know.

Stepping Up

Being in a leadership role, while validating, can sometimes be even trickier to navigate than peer coaching. Depending on their individual personalities, your employees or direct reports may react differently to your leadership. Again, tone can be important: some people will only ever recognize someone as a leader at all, whether it be conscious or not, if they behave a certain way. It’s generally good practice to speak to groups of people more formally than individuals: maintaining the attention of a group or crowd usually requires a bit more energy and confidence. Posture, gesticulation, and other nonverbal behaviors can also have a big impact on how much respect you are able to command from an audience.

But when it comes to individuals, it’s all about figuring out what they respond best to – after all, as a leader, it’s your job to understand and motivate those who rely on you for direction. Generally, it’s best to approach interactions with a new report or subordinate with a friendly yet formal demeanor, and adjust your style as you learn more about them as a person and gauge their responses to your different approaches. Again, these are skills that need to be developed and come with time.

Leading by example is a crucial skill. As in peer learning, doing things together can be a powerful way to establish context and give your learners a reference for how they should do what you’re asking them to do. When you’re in a position of leadership, it’s even more important to get it right the first time, so be sure that you brush up on whatever skill or knowledge you’re sharing well in advance to be sure your reports take you seriously and believe that your leadership is credible.

Most importantly, when sharing knowledge or teaching your reports a new skill, it’s your job to establish meaning, and ensure they know why they need to pay attention and absorb what you’re sharing. Establishing context and a sense of urgency can be a crucial part of ensuring that what you say actually sticks, instead of going in one ear and out the other. Establishing valuable incentives and making opportunities for growth clear and accessible to employees can definitely help cement the importance of your words and act as important motivators for achievement – after all, nobody is here to do what you say for fun!

Whether you have that position of authority or not, never forget that learning can be fun! As a teacher, it’s on you to set that tone and engage the people around you. If they feel like you enjoy what they’re doing, they’ll be more likely to give it a shot – who knows, maybe you’ll even pass on some of that infectious enthusiasm, and give whoever you’re teaching something that they’ll remember and enjoy for years to come.

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