Up until about a year or two ago my goal was to be a teacher, specifically high school. There was something special about the satisfying feeling I had when I was about to teach someone something new.
It started when I was rather young. When I was 13 I started tutoring my grandmothers neighbor in math. He might have been a bit of a lost cause, but I was determined to help him. When I was in high school my mom decided to go back to school and was taking math at the nearby community college. I helped her with her math as well. Even during class, many of my friends would ask me for help because I had a way of explaining a process that was easier to understand then how some of our teachers explained it. I am also my little sisters permanent private math tutor. I like to say I am “fluent in speaking stupid”, because sometime that’s what you need to do. You have to break a process down so that it is as simple as possible. Other students in my same classes continued to come to me for assistance in college, simply because I could explain things better than our teachers could. My working life was no different. Every job I’ve had, I’ve had to train other employees at one point or another. My favorite was when I was working a temp job I got through a temp agency. It was a group assignment so there were about 10 of us on the job. We lost a few people, so we have a new person start on the second day. On my second day I was teaching our new girl how to do what I had learned just the day before.
I belive I always fell into this position because I could. I understood what it meant to teach, and how to adapt to the way different people learn. When you are only able to learn one way it makes it difficult to switch it up for someone else prefered method, as is some people are more visual while some need to repeat the info in order to understand it. Another key issue is knowing when to let go. You need to know when it’s time to stop telling them what comes next and let them figure it out. If they don’t know they will ask, because they know they have you as back up when they need you.
I was having a conversation today with a coworker about a new process we implemented. She told me she started a spread sheet with a list of the new requests to keep track and asked if I wanted her to send it to me. These new requests don’t affect me until one has been repeated a few times. I told her “Meh, I’m not worried, I figure you’re handling it and you’ll let me know when I’m needed. I have faith in you.” (I used such a casual term because she happens to be someone I am friends with outside of work) She was very pleased with my response mainly because I trusted she could handle it, I showed that I had confidence in her. Which is something that many managers forget. A confident employee is going to perform better than an unsure employee to is afraid they are going to get criticized no matter what they do. Positive reinforcement is an amazing tool. We use it when training dogs all the time, why isn’t it used more with people?
Training and teaching is more than just giving out the information and hoping it sticks. It’s walking them through the process and knowing when you can let go. At the same time, you can’t be too focused on micro managing and watching them like a hawk forever. There comes a time when you have to let them go and try on their own. Either they will succeed, and then you will be proud and relived because that means less work for you, or they will fall on their face and you will be there to help them back up.
A baby bird is never going to fly if you don’t let it try.