Great employees want to learn. Great managers know how to teach.

By Daniel Dobrygowski

As workers get more used to a fluid workplace, where longevity in one firm isn’t the goal and developing a portfolio of skills is more important, managers who can offer learning opportunities will be in high demand.

Having started my working life as a high-school teacher, I’ve continued to find success when I use my teaching style to lead teams. Reflecting on how I’ve managed cases and projects, there are three traits which all good teachers share and managers in any field can learn:

1. Define goals and communicate them clearly. Every year, a teacher has to develop a plan for where the class will be at the end of the year with concrete steps for how to get there. The same is true for any organization—you need to have clearly articulated goals that serve a greater mission.

Just as it’s the manager’s responsibility to communicate organizational goals clearly, it’s also the boss’s obligation to listen to employee’s personal goals and, where they align with the overall mission, support them and help build the skills necessary to achieve those shared goals.

2. Identify and build your team’s skills. The ability to understand and build skills is the core of effective teaching and a key management responsibility. A manager can’t lead a team if she doesn’t know what skills are needed to accomplish a goal and if she doesn’t know what the team is good at.

It is vital to discuss the skills and knowledge necessary to achieve success with your team and to understand, through discussion or through past experience what skills team members have and what skills they need to develop. It’s also important, if employees are looking to build their own portfolio of skills, to ensure that they have opportunities.

3. Create opportunities for growth. When an employee says she is looking for a manager she can learn from, the employee is implicitly saying that she values opportunities for growth. No one wants to feel stagnant or like they’re not achieving anything. Good teachers, and effective leaders, help those under them grow by giving effective constructive feedback and by fostering a growth mindset.

Daniel Dobrygowski is the head of governance and policy at the World Economic Forum’s Center for Cybersecurity.


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