Those that can, do - those that can't, teach?

Much of our formative years are spent in school in a classroom. Through those rebellious teenage years it appeared that teachers were there to maintain order, and get us through tests in subjects that much of the time we never seemed to go on to use again. When I reflect back I remember very few of my teachers, but those I do remember, were those that made a personal impact in a positive way. They were the teachers that knew that teaching was far more than what they knew about the subject, it was what they knew about engaging a learner in learning.


As we left school and moved into the world of work, the image of teaching was lots of holidays, a fairly easy life, and the old adage, "if you can, do, and if you can't, teach". It makes you wonder if that was really the case, why we didn't all head off into teaching. And, of course, we didn't, because the reality of teaching is so much more than the learner in the classroom ever sees. But that is not the reason we don't all opt for those long (horribly expensive peak time) holidays. More often than not, many people never quite grow out of laying the blame for their failings at the door of 'school'. We like to look for someone, or something, else to blame, rather than acknowledging our own responsibility for results.


I recently had the pleasure of catching up with one of my former mentees. I've been mentoring for a long time, and in recent years it has often been with undergraduates, or those on the company graduate programme. Sometimes they are a joy and pleasure, and sometimes it takes more effort, but whichever it is there is something in that relationship for both of us. It was the recent conversation that got me thinking about doing, teaching, and leading. This mentee, who was a joy and a pleasure in case you are wondering, had moved on to another organisation and was finding that not all managers and leaders, or organisations, are equal in the quality of their engagement with staff.


Mentoring new graduates is fascinating as you get to really listen to how the generations moving through the workplace differ. My recollections of school were about sitting down, shutting up, and answering questions when you were asked. Whilst that still exists in schools one of the fundamental shifts has been about the voice of the child. The recent generations that are passing into the world of work, are more outspoken, have higher expectations of their employers, and an expectation that their voice will be heard. They have a lot to offer, so why do so many employers still find it hard to listen?


So lets flip that old adage on its head for a moment. Lets assume that teachers are teachers, because they can teach, and not that they can't do something else. As they teach, inspire and motivate young people to become lifelong learners, and steer them towards becoming confident adults, lets pause a moment and ask whether the 'can do, doers' are actually prepared for that. As the baton is passed over to the leaders, to lead, are they picking it up safely, or running off without it?


Ever since I first learned about Spiral Dynamics, and evolution through Values levels, I've recognised their importance in leadership. In very simplified terms its about the evolution from Rambo leadership through to Enlightenment. As we move through the stages our focus moves between self and others. And with each evolution our leadership style and effectiveness grows with it. So what if you are working for Rambo?


Take the leader who loves change, fresh challenges, and a sense of adventure. Addicted to the adrenaline rush of the unexpected, the opportunity for saving the day. Mix them with an employee who craves structure, order and carefully crafted plans. It doesn't take an expert to work out that the combination will have issues. As leaders we need to take care to understand the consequences of our leadership style on those around us. Unless we do there is a risk of not recognising the talent in the team, or worse still creating an environment that they cannot work in, so losing what are potentially our best rising stars.


Leaders who are serious about leadership, are also serious about recognising their own values, and their impact on those around them. So if the teachers are sending through young talent, with high expectations and the confidence to voice their opinions, it is time for leaders to step up, be prepared to hear the fresh young challenge, and harness the value of the whole team.


If you are ready to start interrogating your values, and the impact of your leadership behaviours get in touch and lets start a conversation

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