Monday, January 12, 2009

How Teaching Can Make You Unforgettable


Recently, I posed this question on Twitter: "What was the name of your favorite teacher and what did he/she teach?"

I immediately got nearly a dozen responses, and the enthusiasm was palpable. English, history, economics, drums and literature teachers were lauded by fellow Twitterers who noted how the favored teacher was "encouraging," "brilliant," had "patience" or a sense of humor.

What I also found interesting was that no one forgot the name of that great teacher, which is kind of amazing when you think how many people claim they are "bad with names" even if they've met someone in business many times.

So, this got me to thinking about the power of teaching, and how we can use that in our careers.

While using LinkedIn and Facebook and other online networking tools can be helpful, and attending business and industry functions can be beneficial to your career, don't forget that teaching may have one of the greatest positive impacts on your success.

Teaching, I believe, can take many different forms in the workplace. You can teach the new employee how to use the phone system, you can teach an older employee how to streamline a process, you can teach your boss how to access material on the Internet or you can teach a co-worker how to handle a difficult colleague.

The point is that you're doing what great teachers do: Giving of your time and efforts with the purpose of passing on the gift of knowledge so that the student's life will be enhanced, better and richer for having met you.

Don't ever believe that you're not patient enough, or smart enough or giving enough to be a teacher in the workplace. Even the smallest effort to pass on your knowledge can have a huge impact on someone else, and that's very valuable in a workplace culture that is often so fast-paced and stressful that we forget someone's name the minute we delete their e-mail.

Think back to your favorite teacher. What did he or she offer you that made you always remember him or her? How did they help you expand your mind and absorb the knowledge they offered you?

Now, consider what you have to offer someone else in the workplace. How can you use that knowledge to make yourself memorable, to form a connection that will last? Because let's face it: Solid connections in the workplace not only benefit you now but in the future. Who do you think will help you when you're looking for a new job or an important business contact -- the person you helped teach, or the person you brushed off because you were too busy to help show the ropes?

"Teaching," Albert Einstein said, "should be such that what is offered is perceived as a valuable gift and not as a hard duty.”

What are some ways you can "teach" in the workplace?



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16 comments:

Dan Erwin said...

Anita: Teaching does all those wonderful things for us. Still another consequence of teaching is that it's the very best possible way of learning something for yourself.

Anita said...

Dan,
Excellent point. And what could be better than that?

Selena Dehne, Publicist at JIST Publishing said...

Great post!

Another great way to "teach" in the workplace is to become a mentor to someone. Not only will this help enrich someone else's career, its rewarding for you as well. And mentoring doesn't have to include someone you already know or work with. More and more programs are being created to connect young people to mentors within their occupations and industries.

Julie - On the Dot Creations said...

A wonderful post, Anita. I was a high school English teacher for almost 15 years, and I've been amazed at the number of my former students who still keep in touch with me and often thank me for impacting their lives.

We who teach have such a responsibility to our students, whether they be pimply-faced teenagers or savvy business people. We must be careful to remember that our attitudes and actions speak volumes in and of themselves, in addition to the subject matter that we share.

Kathy said...

One of the best compliments I received when I was working with a man teaching me how to be an even better presenter. He said "You are a born teacher."

My view is that you have to be authentic and believe in your subject to your toes. If not, people will see that you are only saying the "words."

Anita said...

Selena,
If I could tell you the number of people who tell me they really would like to have a mentor! To think someone might volunteer their time to another worker -- especially a younger one -- that would truly be a gift of teaching. And just think...maybe you help foster the next Bill Gates or Michelle Obama!

Anita said...

Julie,
Too often, I think we complain about someone in our workplace, but perhaps the issue is that maybe no one stopped to teach them any differently. I think you make a really good point about approaching teaching with the right attitude -- perhaps if we helped those who need it with the right attitude, we would all benefit in the workplace.

Anita said...

Kathy,
No one can spot a fake quicker than a kid -- that's why I think great teachers stick with us for so long. That authenticity -- and their enthusiasm -- are all attributes we should try to emulate when teaching others. Thanks for your comments.

Shweta Khare said...

Good post Anita. I have always believed in "a good teacher lives forever through his / her students". Both my parents are professors and I have seen this through my life.. thier students are all over the world and they recognize them even in a crowd, at a shopping mall or store! Well so would I if I someday found my favorite teacher strolling by..

The most important way we can incorporate teaching at the workplace is by being a mentor to our juniors.In one of my posts on my blog (http://careerbright.blogspot.com )
I have similar thoughts "Knowledge always increases when you spread it around - so let there be mentors everywhere, in every field so that we all can learn from their stumbles and struggles which might help us to rise further and then give back to the society by being a mentor ourselves!"

mkeeffer said...

Teaching what we know is so important - it's really helping others in a really great way. My greatest teacher? Mrs. Chapin, 7th Grade English. She told me that doing my best in school would provide me with more choices in life, and she was right.

Anita said...

Shweta,
That's a wonderful thought -- let's pay back the people who helped us by helping someone else.
Thanks for sharing your link and thoughts.

Anita said...

Marsha,
I think Mrs. Chapin was so right -- an education is what gives you choices in life, and that includes choices in the workplace. These comments have shown that teaching someone else also means that you're learning yourself, which is always very important to career success.

Stephen Hopson said...

I had a fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Jordan, who said three words that ordinarily would not have meant much but it made a world of difference in my life.

All she said in response to a question I had was:

"That's Right Stephen!"

It forever changed my life. 30 years later I surprised her on a national talk show to thank her for saying those words. THAT forever changed her life!

A full circle!

Ian said...

Great post, teaching is such an important subject & one that's near and dear to my heart (I have been teaching kids math for 10 years)
A sense of fun/enjoyable work is important, beside it's a great way to get alot of soft skills.


In tough times, I have seen some people might keep the knowledge just to keep their job.
Ironicly, teaching @ work get people more in-depth understanding of the subject & getting to be known as the expert/guru ... which is the a great job security.

Anita said...

Stephen,
You bring up an important point -- to make sure that when we teach in the workplace, we are not just full of criticism, but realistic support and encouragement. Love your story!

Anita said...

Ian,
How right you are: Teaching forces you to focus on how you communicate and relate to the other person -- the soft skills you mention. And, the point you make about becoming known as an expert/guru at work is so, so valuable, especially in these tough times when bosses are focused on who provides the most value at work. Great points!