Baseball CoachOver the years I have been delighted to find that if the right conditions exist, it is not nearly as hard to recruit leader-teachers as one might expect.  In fact, in many organizations, there are many leaders and talented professionals who are willing to teach, coach and mentor. Too often, we simply do not know how to find them or do not create the environment in our work organizations for these individuals to self-identify and volunteer. I have heard many stories from leaders who said something like the following. “I enjoy teaching and guiding the development of others, but there just are not opportunities at work so I find other places in my life to do it”. For example, many leaders coach sports teams in the community, teach at a church, synagogue or mosque. Others serve as big brothers or sisters or mentor youth or adults.

I was recently reminded of the untapped leader-teacher resources in so many of our organizations.  These are lost opportunities to contribute to building learning and teaching organizations. When the right conditions are present, it is not that hard to enable leaders to share their experience and knowledge with others.

I was in the waiting area of an Amtrak train station on the way to Washington to work with senior executives in one of the federal agencies. The train was delayed and I could not help but hear the discussion of the two business people sitting next to me. In the U.S. it is currently spring sports season for many young people and their families. One of business persons was excitedly describing the joy and satisfaction he was experiencing by coaching his daughter’s ten year-old softball and his son’s little league baseball teams. The second business person said, “As busy as you are, how do you do it?”  The response was short and very telling…”I love it so I find the time!” The conversation continued for several minutes and from what I could determine, the father-coach was likely a natural leader-teacher, albeit at work, a frustrated one. Several times he expressed his disappointment of not having an outlet in his work life to regularly teach and coach even though he has expressed his interest in doing so.

What I took away from my wait for a late train in April was another example of the many leaders who, given the opportunity, would gladly teach and further contribute to the development of others if their organizations would create the conditions to do so.

Here are a few tips for you to check if the conditions exist for leaders to volunteer to teach in your organization. Are your leaders:

  • Encouraged and recognized to teach by the organization’s culture?
  • Able to share what they know including their key leadership perspectives?
  • Add business value and contribute to building individual and organizational capability?
  • Supported by learning and development professionals in the preparation period in advance of actually teaching?
  • Confident they will be successful when they teach?
  • Able to enjoy themselves and take pride in their contribution, in part, because their teaching assignments will be matched with their interests, backgrounds, experience, and capabilities?
  • Control their busy calendars and are comfortable with the total amount of time necessary to prepare and to teach
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