ATD Blog

Do You Teach in the Moment?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Highly effective leader-teachers create teachable moments. They also take advantage of naturally occurring teachable moments that happen throughout a typical work day and, frequently, numerous times during a week of business and organizational life. We call this teaching in the moment. Four keys to effectively teach in the moment are:

  • Identify missed and upcoming opportunities to be more effective.
  • Plan teaching moments so that others can benefit.
  • Prepare to take advantage of situations when these moments occur so that those involved can learn from the experience.
  • Lead, teach, and facilitate others to regularly reflect on and learn from their experiences.

Every leader can capitalize on learning opportunities by using these four principles.
Below are a few examples of teaching in the moment. As you read these examples, think about how you can encourage similar teaching and learning opportunities to occur more regularly throughout your organization.

An executive helps a group of leaders who are involved in a very difficult multi-million dollar decision-making process about a new product. He does so by reminding them to “do the right thing” when balancing the issues of safety, ethics, and market potential.

A VP of marketing always reserves 30 to 60 minutes for a learning discussion after her direct report makes a presentation to senior management.

In the midst of a team dispute, the team leader calls “time-out” and then leads a no-blame, no-lose conflict resolution session. The issue is resolved, and cooler heads are able to discuss and learn from what led to the argument.

A leader regularly holds scheduled—as well as spontaneous—“walk-and-talks” to discuss issues of the day and to learn from one another on topics important to the team.


Joan is famous in her company for how much she can discuss, analyze, and teach in a five-minute period going from meeting to meeting in the spacious hallways of her company.

After reflecting on the above examples, share answers to the following questions in the comment section below.

How effective are you at teaching in the moment?


What are two or three opportunities you can identify in the upcoming week to teach in the moment?

During the next month, when it comes to teaching in the moment, how do you plan to be a more effective leader-teacher?

Learn more from Leaders as Teachers Action Guide: Proven Approaches for Unlocking Success in Your Organizationavailable now.

About the Author

Ed Betof, EdD, is a leader, teacher, coach, mentor, and author. As president of Betof Associates, he does C-level executive and leadership team coaching. He also serves as executive coach for the Center for Creative Leadership and teaches for the Institute for Management Studies. In 2007, Ed retired as worldwide vice president of talent management and CLO at Becton, Dickinson and Company. In addition, he served for eight years as the program director for the Conference Board’s Talent and Organization Development Executive Council, and was a founding senior fellow and an academic director for the doctoral program designed to prepare chief learning officers at the University of Pennsylvania. Ed is the author or co-author of five books, including Leaders as Teachers: Unlock the Teaching Potential of Your Company’s Best and Brightest, Leaders as Teachers Action Guide, and Just Promoted!: A Twelve-Month Roadmap for Success in Your New Leadership Role. He is a frequent speaker on leadership and career topics and a former ATD Board member.

About the Author

Lisa M.D. Owens is a learning expert who combines her engineering mindset with a deep interest in instructional design and learning sciences to create training that moves business forward. In 2016, Lisa and Crystal Kadakia began researching issues facing L&D in this modern age to discover the next step in the L&D industry’s evolution beyond blended learning. This led to a highly rated ATD LearnNOW program, which then inspired the book they co-authored for ATD Press, Designing for Modern Learning: Beyond ADDIE and SAM. Lisa also co-authored the ATD Press book <em>Leaders as Teachers Action Guide , which is based on her experiences as global training leader at Procter & Gamble.

About the Author

Sue Todd is chief strategy officer at CorpU. She works with faculty at leading business schools, including Wharton, IESE, the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and others, to adapt executive education programs to the practical needs of leaders. Sue has advised Global 2000 organizations on innovative learning and leadership development strategies since 1994. With more than 20 years experience, she has consulted with firms like Coca-Cola, Aetna, Exxon, The Boeing Company, HP, Pfizer, M&M Mars, and others to address the dynamic conditions of the 21st Century. Her current work focuses on complexity science, and how it reveals cracks in current organizational structures and practices under increasing marketplace dynamism. She is identifying approaches that can prepare leaders to embrace emergence and guide organization adaptability. Prior to joining CorpU, Sue was VP of product management for KnowledgePlanet, where she directed the evolution of the first web-based learning management system, the first business-to-business eLearning marketplace and technology-based performance management solutions. She helped both media and industry analysts shape the LMS and e-learning industries. Sue has been interviewed by  The Wall Street JournalFortune MagazineUSA TodayThe New York TimesGreentree Gazette, Workforce Week, and other HR and learning industry publications. She has published articles in  Leadership Excellence, CLOTraining and  T&D Magazines. Sue has spoken at New York University, Bellvue University, ASTD ICE, Tuskegee University, University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. And for two years, in 2006 and 2007, she ran Training Director’s Forum on behalf of Training Magazine.

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