As a leader, you are a teacher, instructor, coach, and mentor among many other titles (hope this is not news to you). In this role, are you maximizing the learning opportunities for your ‘students’? Many times, when you are teaching, you are following a set curriculum or syllabus of information, be it from a policy and procedures manual a textbook or practical ‘on the job’ experience. You may be preparing a team member for a test or simply passing along the information needed to complete their role correctly. You typically have a plan in place to teach the material that needs to be covered in the best way possible.
Deviate from the Plan
There are often moments in the teaching and learning process when a unique learning opportunity is presented, potentially causing you to alter the schedule or information or technique you planned to follow for covering the material you are teaching. These moments usually show up in small nuggets of learning that are not directly related to the topic currently being taught but may offer a greater big picture learning or a real-life example of a topic to be taught at a later date. I call these opportunities “teachable moments”.
Teachable moments are typically presented experientially. They are usually unplanned events and present too great a learning opportunity to pass up. You may be teaching a new project manager about the budgeting process for a major project in your organization when there is an accident at a project site destroying an important piece of equipment and almost injuring 3 employees. You are not directly responsible for this project but you are closely connected to you it.
Upon hearing of this accident, you could choose to continue teaching about the budgeting process or you could stop what you are teaching and spend the rest of the day/week visiting the site of the accident to experience the incident investigation and risk management process. You hadn’t planned on covering these topics until next month but this teachable moment has arisen and it is much more valuable for the student to learn from firsthand experience than have you teaching out of a manual or through story telling.
When teachable moments arise, it is often difficult, for a moment, to let go of whatever you were teaching, because it is usually planned well in advance it is important information, and you were mentally prepared to teach it now. It can take a head shift but that’s ok, as it’s what’s best for the student and that’s what’s most important. These moments would often arise when leading and teaching on an expedition. On an expedition, a teachable moment would often come in the form of what I call “nature TV”.
I could be teaching an ocean chart reading class on a beach in Alaska on a sea kayak expedition when a couple of massive Humpback Whales swim near our beach, clearly feeding. Even though I planned to cover Humpback Whales and their feeding and migration habits next week, this would be a much better time.
Opportunities like this can be summed up by the expression “don’t let education get in the way of learning”.
Take Advantage Of Teachable Moments!
Is there a teachable moment you experienced as a student or leader that has had an impact in your career? Tell me about it in the comments below.
Until next week… Embrace the Adventure!