The Best Investment
I love to hear my husband’s stories that start with, “Dad taught me…”
The importance of family, entrepreneurship, and adventure as a staple of life are a few of his favorite topics. For example, Doug learned about profitability at age 8 when he was reminded that he had to pay for the lawnmower rental and its gas before he could count his earnings from the neighbors.
My father-in-law was a wise man with a huge heart and an interest in helping people. During his memorial service a few years ago, I was amazed at the number of people who shared things they had learned from Frank and continued to apply to this day.
Perhaps because Doug and Frank also cherished their fishing adventures together, I am reminded of this ancient leadership proverb: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Important concept, yes; and how a leader invests in teaching will make the most difference to the ‘student.’ When a leader focuses on the specifics of what needs to be done, the details of how it needs to be done and the exact timeline of when it needs to be done, s/he is instructing as a form of teaching. When a leader spends time on why it needs to be done, s/he is sharing context around the challenge and not just their own views. By spending even more time asking questions — and then leveraging the skills, knowledge, and enthusiasm of others — that leader is coaching as a form of teaching. By letting go of total control and being really curious, the leader is helping to encourage innovation and strategic thinking skills.
The leader who coaches is serving the individual or team by delving deeper into thought processes, implications, and potential outcomes. It takes more time and patience to coach versus to simply instruct. The benefits can last a lifetime. Just ask my husband.
This Week: Where there are things you have learned that have served you in meaningful way throughout your life, jot them down. If it’s possible, let the individual(s) who “taught you to fish” know what it has meant to you. Where you have opportunity to teach someone, remember the two forms of teaching and focus on coaching versus instructing.
In Next Week’s Post: Staying the course.
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