Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Workplace Learning and Performance Professionals as Leaders and Teachers

Do you recall a boss from your work history who made a difference in your life – who managed to teach you something instead of just manage your work? They seem to be the ones we remember most.

How about teachers? You know, the ones who did more than just teach the subject assigned for the year; the ones who gave you more of a full picture, a focus toward a vision, a goal, a path.

In the April 2007 issue of Fast Company magazine (page 112), Bill George, Professor at Harvard Business School, and Wendy Kopp, President of Teach for America (, had a conversation around leadership and teaching. It got me to thinking about past jobs (and bosses) and school days (and teachers) gone by.

But even more so, it has me thinking about our role as Workplace Learning and Performance professionals – we need to think both as leaders and teachers when creating and delivering instructional materials and content.

As Kopp notes in the article, “The best leaders keep focused on the outcomes they’re trying to achieve...” Having clear objectives makes all the difference in ensuring you reach your intended destination, whether you’re developing and launching a new product, or teaching a student the proper way to dissect a frog.

Kopp adds: “The most successful teachers set a vision for their students’ achievement… They are purposeful and effective in planning and executing toward that vision, work relentlessly to tackle the immense challenges that inevitably arise, and reflect constantly on their students’ performance and their own practice.” We can draw parallels to the instructional design model: analysis, design and development, the implementation, and careful evaluation.

George notes, “I believe that great leaders are also excellent teachers. I wonder, would actually thinking of themselves as teachers help leaders be more effective? What can we learn from teachers about our own leadership?”

It seems these are fair questions to ask ourselves as Workplace Learning and Performance professionals.

Do our training and classroom presentations spark learners’ curiosity and interest? Do our instructional materials encourage independent thought and exploration to help build students’ future leadership skills? Are our instructional materials closely aligned to the desired learning objectives and outcomes? Do they teach something?

Maybe it’s a good idea, as Workplace Learning and Performance professionals, to remind ourselves to think (and act) as leaders and teachers.

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