The teachable moment
When we hear about the words learning and training, we often think about the formal learning processes.
Going to school, attending a conference, taking Coursera courses and reading books and blogs are great for learning new concepts, expanding our minds, and finding out about cool things that others have done.
However, when people come back to work after attending a conference, what often happens is that the openness of their minds, energy and enthusiasm quickly get worn down by the opposite force: the inert close-mindedness of the status quo, “the way things have always been done around here”.
Two weeks after the event, it’s like nothing ever happened. In hindsight, the conference seemed to be nothing more than an intellectually stimulating exercise, with its newly conceived ideas ultimately inapplicable to the current circumstances. The true goal, long-term behavior change, fails to happen.
One way to overcome this problem is through continued discussion of the possible applications of the ideas after the event, along with ongoing support of each other’s change process. You may decide to form smaller groups, perhaps even pairs, in which you can brainstorm ways to help the other person overcome obstacles, and hold each other accountable.
But when you think about this peer coaching arrangement, there’s really no reason not to do this all the time. Even when we don’t go to a conference, we still have ideas, suggestions for improvement, and other things we learn, formally or informally, that we’d like to share with others.
On the surface, this may look like a process change. But it’s really a mindset change.
Shifting your focus from yourself to the people around you sounds simple, but it’s very hard to do, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed and there are other priorities. I believe that this focus, combined with deep caring about others is at the core of effective leadership.
Paying more attention to people around you may reveal ways to to help illuminate their blind spots, and teaching them ways to solve their problems more effectively.
This spontaneous opportunity to unselfishly share your knowledge and experiences is called a teachable moment. It is a chance to selflessly lend a helping hand and show that you truly care about the other person.