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Sam Davidson's blog

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If You're a Manager, Then You're a Teacher, Too

Are you in charge of something? Do you manage other people? Then regardless of what your Myers-Briggs results say, you also have the duty to teach. Remember: classrooms are usually the last place we learn something. My daughter (who's two) is really into puzzles. She's beginning to graduate from the puzzles with set shapes (where only one piece goes in a certain section) to those puzzles with real pieces, like you and I do. And as she does the puzzles, I watch.

She's starting to learn where certain pieces go and when to tell that a piece doesn't fit. Sometimes, she struggles to try and fit a piece exactly. And as she struggles, I watch.

It's important for her to learn to keep trying. While I want to step in and right a piece a few degrees so it fits more quickly, I understand that as a parent, I have to wait patiently and watch her struggle. It is in the struggle that the learning happens because real knowledge comes when we try things, even if we fail at them. My daughter would gain nothing from me making the puzzle easier.

It's the same with those of us who manage people. Especially when we have a young, first-timer on board, we can want to step in and showcase our experience or expertise. We can want to show them how it's done to save time and money. We can want to feel important.

But we need to let them struggle. They need to jump into the deep end to see if their arms and legs and lungs can work together to make them swim. They need to try. And to fail. They need a chance to succeed.

If you're a manager, you're a teacher, too. Consider part of your role to instruct and to create learning opportunities. You'll be around, of course, with a watchful eye and a life preserver in case of emergency. But my guess is that you'll be happily surprised at just what your team can do when you let them get wet.

The best thing your employee could say about you is, "She taught me so much..." instead of "She always just did it for us."

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