ATD Blog

Prepare Leader-Teachers to Move Beyond The Classroom

Thursday, June 5, 2014

A few years ago a global manufacturing company employed a team of corporate vice presidents whose jobs required traveling from site to site where the company operates to find and transfer best practices across 70 country locations. The practice seemed analogous to honey bees transferring life-giving pollen among the growing segments of the firm’s business.

These vice presidents essentially became traveling teachers, and by assigning them this responsibility, the company acknowledged the importance of moving leader-teachers far beyond the classroom.

Prepare your leader-teachers to fill four critical new roles outside of the classroom.

  1. Network connectors
    "If HP only knew what HP knows.” Remember that statement? Network theorists say that people can’t determine what knowledge might be available only a few nodes away from them in an organization network. We can identify knowledge that exists with our direct contacts and their direct contacts. Beyond that, things get fuzzy.

    Leader-teachers can help people source the knowledge that resides beyond the network where they operate. The leader-teacher also can serve as that essential node that links one network to help transfer critical information and ideas across different parts of the organization.

  2. Aggregators of collective intelligence
    Organization knowledge is continually enhanced in real-time as teams collaborate and problem-solve together. By practicing effective listening and questioning, leader-teachers can aggregate and leverage new knowledge to improve organization agility and teams’ abilities to execute.

  3. Explorers and experimenters
    Most of us can barely recognize the kinds of work we did even 10 years ago as waves of change continue to flow faster through all industries and professional disciplines. Leader-teachers can help us continue to rise up and over these waves in two ways.


    First, they enable us to explore our futures by teaching us how to look for and find the horizons of our businesses, and help us know what to look for beyond those horizons. Second, they must teach us how to take small steps into the future, and lead the analysis of what we learn from each small step so that we are learning as we go. Only then can we avoid running too far down any path that leads to misfortune.

  4. Jazz makers
    The world now demands increased variety in the products and services produced to serve unique value propositions for clients. Meeting diverse needs externally requires increasing the diversity of perspectives and insights the organization draws from internally.

    Leaders teach teams about the essence of the work they need to do. Like a jazz ensemble, they establish a melody (the goal of the project), tempo (timing and priorities), and key (parameters within which the team should operate). As they facilitate dialogue, debate, and work activities as leader-teachers, they encourage and incorporate the diverse thinking that will help the team build on each other’s ideas. This enables an elegant improvisation that creates unique solutions to meet unique needs.

You can help leader-teachers take on these new roles by teaching them effective questioning, listening, debriefing, dialoguing and other skills needed to activate these roles. Then, provide forums to help leader-teachers share stories about how they are leveraging their new roles to affect organization performance and results.
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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