Bruce held our partners spellbound for two and a half hours.
Graham Baragwanath, Managing Partner (fmr.), Deloitte Consulting Canada

Become a Teaching-Style Manager

If you want to truly take your management to the next level, go beyond regular performance coaching. Become a true champion of soft skills by becoming a teaching style leader. Make teaching/learning the soft skills basics an explicit part of your mission and goals for your team going forward.

Being a “teaching style manager” means:

  • Talk about what’s going right, wrong, and average every step of the way.
  • Remind everybody of broad performance standards regularly.
  • Turn best practices into standard operating procedures and teach them to everybody.
  • Use plans and step-by-step checklists whenever possible.
  • Focus on concrete actions within the control of the individual employee.
  • Monitor, measure, and document individual performance in writing.
  • Follow up, follow up, follow up, and provide regular candid feedback.
  • Ask really good questions.
  • Listen carefully.
  • Answer questions.
  • Get input.
  • Learn from what your employees are learning on the front line.
  • Think through potential obstacles and pitfalls – make back-up planning part of every work-plan.
  • Anticipate and prepare.
  • Train and practice.
  • Strategize together.
  • Provide advice, support, motivation, and even inspiration once in a while.

Teaching-style management is also how you can help your most ambitious Gen Zers, who are so eager to take on more and more challenges and responsibilities.

Help them make their current work new and interesting by teaching them to leverage knowledge, skill, and wisdom to do their work better, whatever that work happens to be. As soon as they walk in the door, have every new employee create an individualized learning plan in which they map out their responsibilities, and for each responsibility, make a list of learning resources (books, people, specific web sites). Encourage them to set learning goals and then keep a journal of what they are learning and how they are using it on the job.

The secret is to teach and transfer just one small task/responsibility at a time. Make sure the person masters each new task/responsibility before you transfer another. You can train them the old-fashioned way in short-term stages that track directly with adjustments in their day-to-day responsibilities. Every new task turns into a proving ground, which enables them to demonstrate proficiency and earn more responsibility right away.

Don’t fall for the myth that Gen Zers only want to learn from computers. That’s nonsense. Remember, they love grown-ups. They want to learn from people. They want to learn from you. You will never really take the place of a parent, but if you can truly become a trusted teaching-style manager, that is about as close as you can get.

This content originally appeared in our Just Thinking Newsletter.