3 Ways Teaching Made Me a Better Manager

In the last year, I’ve delivered 30 hours of training, coached 14 young entrepreneurs and traveled to 7 cities across Canada and the world to deliver content and accelerate my current workplace. None of this would’ve been possible without my second year literature teacher. She was the one who taught me about the versatility of teaching and how it can be applied to many different careers. Seeing this, I wanted to share my wisdom and aspects on what the benefits of teaching are in this short blog.

Patience and Persistence

Prior to coming to Toronto, I worked as a teacher’s assistant at my old high school.  I worked with a student who insisted he was bad at math and would never learn the concepts. The main obstacles to overcome were not only his basic understanding of the material, but also his mindset about the topic.

Between trying different written and verbal exercises for math practices and slowly learning that he needed to start off a session by talking about history (particularly World War I or II), it took a lot of different trials before arriving at a learning method that worked. Ultimately, I learned that he wanted to talk about his interests first because it put into perspective what he wanted to pursue after graduation and why he was here in the first place. Just like working with an employee, they need to see the larger purpose of what they are doing in the day-to-day in order to move forward. I also learned to observe how the student preferred to receive information. In our case, he needed a verbal explanation before completing a written exercise, while some of the other students preferred to simply receive the worksheet and be left alone.

 

“They need to see the larger purpose of what they are doing in the day-to-day in order to move forward.”

 

Developing the habit of adapting to working styles and to the need for a quick turnaround on training resources enabled me to perform better as a manager in my current workplace. I was able to set an example for how long it should take to produce resources for the local branches we were training and demand a similar bar of work ethic.

An Unwavering Belief in Others

I got easily discouraged when the people I was trying to support persisted with their disbelief in their own abilities. But I realized that if I didn’t believe they are capable, they likely wouldn’t either.

This effect of our perception of others’ abilities will work the same in the workplace as it does in the classroom. If we believe someone is capable, they will prove us right – I have seen this time and time again be the defining factor of success in teams I have led.

While this may seem self-explanatory, we often forget it in the workplace (myself included) and I have been in situations where our leaders or I myself was deprecating our performance – as though that is supposed to elicit a positive outcome.

An Unmovable Locus of Control

Two years ago, I led a local branch of AIESEC back in Victoria. We were falling behind all our goals. When discussing the issue with people in my support network, they blamed the performance on the volunteers within the teams I was leading and stated that some years are simply better than others.

However, I knew from my experience as a teacher’s assistant that my performance was determined by the performance of those I was supporting. Every week we would review whether the students under my supervision had completed the assignments by the deadlines given and how much their grades were increasing.

Now in a role where I oversee the health of 30 local branches across Canada and the performance of 1000 volunteers, the habit I built as a teacher’s assistant made it easier for me to hold myself to a greater accountability for the performance of those I am leading.  No experience would have prepared me to undertake this role at the age of 20 had I not been previously equipped with the skillset and mindset of accountability from my previous teaching responsibility.  In the same way that a teacher can have a remarkable impact on a student despite all factors affecting the student’s learning abilities and personal circumstance, I know that in my current role I can focus on certain actions that will have a higher impact than others on a large network.

Do we always remember these things when they count?

Perhaps the biggest realization I’ve had this year is how at work, many people continue to think that the realization of goals are separate from employees’ development. Sometimes, they are separate. But if a student develops and increases their performance, then the deliverables as a teacher are accomplished. Great managers and leaders, like great teachers, are able to unite the two things.

This is a lot easier said than done. The only thing we can do from here is put ourselves in environments where we are continuously challenged to apply our most highly upheld beliefs and test what we really know about managing others and making organizations move.

Interested in experiencing a similar journey to teach and learn these skills? Check out AIESEC’s professional opportunities here where you can go on a teaching internship abroad!

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