Teach or Learn? Why Not Both?

October 3, 2011 § 3 Comments

Recently I had a conversation with Josette Rider, Executive Director & CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana. We talked about the inefficiecy in the constant exchange of emails back and forth between others in the office – sometimes people who work just a few feet away from each other. People rely on email too much for communication and dont simply talk to others. Why do people constantly email instead of getting up out of their chair and talking to the person or picking up the phone and calling the person?

Talking to people who communicate mostly with email and describing the inefficiencies is a good start. Inevitably, they have a laundry list of reasons why they should send emails out instead of talking. Since people do not develop habits overnight, they will also not get rid of those habits overnight. One conversation will probably not change behavior. It will likely take two or more conversations to change behavior, unless…they TEACH.

Josette had a brilliant idea that I have seen work in other scenarios, but never connected it to this one. It was to ask one of her managers (one that is a heavy email user) to present and instruct ways to reduce email and improve verbal communications to the other managers at the agency. To help this instruction, I sent Josette a blog post from Seth Godin that was posted on June 9, 2011. It is titled “Email checklist (maybe this time it will work)” and addresses this same email problem in a humorous, yet insightfull way.

The brillance in this coaching action lies in the fact that teaching reinforces the topic that is being shared, probably more so for the instructor than for those being taught. In fact, it reinforces what is already familiar and forces the instructor to work through the topics of uncertainty. 

There are many areas I have experienced where it is understood that learning will happen when we teach or instruct. In Sanchin Ryu karate, the leader of a small workout group often reinforces in his own mind the strikes he or she shows the group. Managers in business often have to think through a concept or topic before leading a meeting about the topic. As a CPA, I have also discovered that instructors of Continuing Professional Education courses receive credits for the time instructing as does those CPAs that are listening to the instruction.

When you are asked to lead a discussion or to train a group, it will be difficult to say yes due to nerves or uncertainty, but always remember…it will likely beneift you more than anyone else.

Keep your eyes open. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

This post was inspired by Josette Rider, Executive Director at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana.

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Unwritten Rules

August 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

“That is one of those unwritten rules”. How many times have you heard a former Major League player and current announcer make this claim? As many people know, baseball has dozens of unwritten rules, maybe even hundreds. Don’t admire your home run shot too long. You can slide in hard to second base to break up a double play, but don’t go in with your cleats up. And my favorite, non pitchers cannot walk across the pitchers mound. All of these unwritten rules make the play unclear to some on the field and most off the field.

If you want people to perform at a very high level, whether it is on the baseball field or at your organization, rules cannot be “unwritten”. “Unwritten Rules” tend to be very vague and unclear. Clarity is paramount. How many times have directions been given and the person goes off and does something completely different? The most likely reason is due to unclear directions.

Be clear. Be concise. Repeat.

Keep your eyes open.  Inspiration can come from anywhere.

I was inspired by a blog post from Marlon Byrd, center fielder for the Chicago Cubs, about the unwritten rules of baseball.

Listening to the Quiet

July 20, 2011 § 1 Comment

Sometimes we all need to stop, regroup and recharge our professional batteries.  I was at a Cubs game on July 15, 2011.  Carlos Marmol came into the game with a two-run lead in the 9th inning.  He was only able to get one out before he was pulled and replaced by another reliever to finish out the game.  Marmol was very inconsistent and unable to pitch strikes.  The team manager, Mike Quade, asked Carlos Marmol to take the weekend off to regroup and regain his exceptional ability to get outs at the end of the game.

There are times when we all need to regroup and regain our passion for our work. I experienced this first hand.  The first part of my “down time” I went to see the Cubs victory I briefly described above.  The rest of my time was been spent by the water swimming, fishing, having a few adult beverages and Listening to the Quiet.

The Quiet.  It is something many of us have never experienced or have not realized the experience.  If you know this expience, you know what I will attempt to describe. 

Sitting outside, many times you hear birds chirping, kids playing and lawn mowers roaring.  Imagine if all of those sounds went away – or at least two of the three.  All that remains is the Quiet, true quiet. 

If you have experienced Quiet, you know what is meant by the saying “silence is deafening”.  Phones are not ringing and business associates are not asking questions.  Quiet.  What happens next is up to you and is the most important.  Your mind begins to wander and/or wonder. This is always important regardless of the profession you are in.  You begin thinking about life’s challenges and how to resolve those challenges.  It is also a great time to generate ideas for the next blog you write. 

In addition to providing high-quality think-time, the Quiet allows you to do the opposite – think about nothing.  Thinking about nothing provides a relief of stress and improves your overall emotional well being.  It other words’ it recharges your emotional batteries.

I have found it very difficult, but vitally important to take a break from the always on, always connected life.  Make the time to do nothing and listen to the quiet.  How long has it been since you have Listened to the Quiet?

Keep your eyes open.  Inspiration can come from anywhere.

Inspiration for this writing came from my dad.  He always reminds me to  take some time off from the fast-paced world of business and enjoy doing nothing.

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