As IT Managers, we wear many hats, including delegator, commander, disciplinarian, leader, decision maker, facilitator, and role model. Great managers, however, are also teachers, providing instruction and insights to their staff on topics such as:
- Job specific skills
- Navigating company politics
- Leadership skills
- Interpersonal skills
- Professional growth and career advancement
- Life skills, when asked for personal advice
Incorporating teaching into your management style has many advantages for your company, your staff members, and you personally.
Regarding the advantages to the company, teaching your staff is a triple win. First, improving the skills of your staff can enhance company morale, boost productivity, increase quality, and reduce employee attrition. Second, as your staff becomes more highly skilled, due to your tutelage, they increase the company’s bench strength as new projects and challenges arise. Third, you may be the manager, but you are still an employee. Hence, the more you learn by teaching, the more valuable you become to the company in regard to future promotions.
Regarding the advantages to your staff, they’re learning new job skills, gaining insights on navigating their professional careers, have the benefit of working in a nurturing environment, and are enhancing their future professional marketability.
The advantages to you personally include:
- You learn by teaching. The reason you learn when teaching a topic is because students’ questions cause you to consider things from different perspectives, this giving you deeper insights into the topic/subject you are teaching. Also, teaching makes you break down tasks into steps so you can explain them to the student. This decomposition of a process into its parts, allows you to better understand the task being performed.
- Teaching builds loyalty from your staff toward you. Your willingness to spend time and share your knowledge with your team, not only increases department efficiency (which is great for you as the department manager), but it also builds loyalty, of those you teach, to you personally and the company in general. The reason for this loyalty is that they appreciate your time and effort in enhancing their skills.
- Teaching enhances your management reputation. This reputation can be to your advantage looking both up to your boss and down to your staff. Looking up, if your manager and those above him/her are impressed with your management ability, it increases the chance of promotion. If those the level below you think you are a good person to report to, then it makes it much easier for you to hire people into your group from inside the company.
- Helping others learn and grow feels good. Maybe this isn’t true for everyone, even though I believe it is true for most, that there is a personal pleasure that comes from helping others. Most people support others outside the work place in the form of charity. Giving is done within the work place by being honest, hardworking, and, relevant to this week’s topic, teaching others.
There are a number of different ways you can teach those who work for you. These ways include:
- Constructive criticism is providing helpful advice when someone is doing something wrong/incorrectly.
- A learning moment is when you see that an employee is having trouble performing a task and you talk with him/her to help provide a better understanding how the task should be performed
- On-the-job training can be done when assigning a new type of task to an employee. When doing so, don’t simply give the employee a quick instruction or two and then leave him/her to forage for himself/herself. Take the time to explain why the task is done in that way, the importance of the task to the department, and other appropriate information that will give the employee insights that will help him/her be successful in performing the task at hand.
- Cross training is a great way to simultaneously train your employees and increase the technical flexibility of your staff. As the manager, you have four cross training related responsibilities. First, you must facilitate the cross training process (the who is going to learn what from whom). Second, you must explain to both the “crosstrainer” and the “crosstrainee” the rationale behind the training and your view of its importance to the individuals and the department as a whole. Third, you must allocate an appropriate amount of time for the cross training to occur. Lastly, you must immediately provide the “Crosstrainee” with tasks related to what he/she just learned to cement the training in the mind of the “Crosstrainee” before the newly learned information is lost.
- Be an advocate for formalized training. As managers, we don’t have the knowledge to teach our employees everything they need to know. When this is the case, foster an internal department environment on continuing education through internally offered eLearning and classroom based classes, external webinars, public classes, and other ongoing opportunities for your staff to learn new and work-related skills.
Until next time, lead well, always communicate, and think business first and technology second.