When leaders teach, they often imitate what they have experienced—they lecture. And what's one of the worst ways to transfer information and inspire others? Lecture.
Here's where partnership with learning professionals is critical. Learning professionals know how to draw out the key content from leaders and turn it into something from which others can learn. Yet there are some nuances when working with leader-teachers that make this interaction different from work with typical subject matter experts.
For starters, leader-teachers are typically “the boss” and have schedules that barely leave room for bathroom breaks. If you experience butterflies and other symptoms of angst when meeting with them, it can help to remember two things. First, while they may be the expert on the business, you are the expert on learning. Second, focus on helping them, rather than trying to impress. Then, be available when they are, even if it means a 5 a.m. coaching session. Beyond that, they are subject matter experts who look to you to help them "shine on stage" in front of their employees and peers, whether in a face-to-face or virtual session.
Here are three things you can do to help your leader-teachers shine.
- Recommend an active teaching frame for the session.
- Guide them to develop their Unique Leadership Perspective (ULP).
- Provide visuals that will enhance recall for learners.
Active teaching frame
A frame is simply a way of organizing a learning session. One simple frame is "a third, a third, a third." In this method, leader-teachers deliver essential content in the first third of the session. Encourage leader-teachers to use an active learning method to deliver this content, such as video or dialogue, or to keep this component no longer than 10 minutes. The second third is an activity through which participants apply the content. This part typically takes at least as long as the first part, if not longer. The final—and most important—third is the debrief, which is when participants share the outcome of their activity and leader-teachers provide positive and constructive feedback and reinforcement. Encourage leader-teachers to reserve plenty of time for the debrief because this is when their experience and wisdom can be best showcased.
Unique leadership perspective (ULP)
Real stories told by leaders about their own experiences and beliefs can keep participants highly engaged because we are wired to remember and learn from stories. Help leader-teachers to develop their unique leadership perspective (ULP)—a story about their own beliefs and experiences that models what they expect from their organizations and from themselves. Ask them questions that will draw out these formative experiences. A story will emerge that you can work with them to shape during the coming weeks. Here are a few questions to get you and your leader-teachers started:
- What key lessons have you learned from your successes and failures in life or in your career?
- What are your beliefs about... (business growth, innovation, disciplined execution, or teamwork, for example)?
- What is the best advice you have ever received?
- What legacy do you want to leave behind?
Visuals for recall
The common presentation slide set is full of text that is more of a trainer-script than a learner-aid. Free your leader-teachers from delivering a script by replacing text with visuals or fewer words. A good guideline is the six-by-six rule: each visual has no more than six lines and no more than six words per line. (A stretch goal is three-by-three!)
Another technique is to ask leader-teachers to create or use a single picture or model from which they believe they could talk for a long time. As leader-teachers form such models, they codify—both for themselves and others—what is needed to accomplish this task, skill, or process. Such visual models are typically more memorable and find their way back into the workplace where the learning can be put to good use.
Activate your leader-teachers so that they convey their wisdom, experience, and current strategies in a way that causes real change in the workplace.
Learn more from Leaders as Teachers Action Guide: Proven Approaches for Unlocking Success in Your Organization, available now.