Change Management Concepts – The Leader As Teacher

Introduction
This is the first in a series of Change Management Concepts articles.

Change Management is about introducing some combination of new people, new processes and new technology to a business or organization. The organization has a lot to learn, and someone needs to be the teacher.

Often executives will hire consultants to drive their change management initiatives, and the teaching job falls to the consultants almost by default. Save some money. Hire consultants if you need them, but focus their teaching efforts on your leadership team. Then let the leaders (yourself included) teach everyone else.

Leaders Are The Best Teachers
When a management consulting firm conducted a study a few years ago, they formed two groups of people to be trained in new systems and processes. One group was trained by professional trainers. For the second group, the professionals trained the boss and the boss trained the people. Immediately after training, both groups were tested to determine how well they had learned. 

Which group tested higher? Well, um, uh, well, it was the professionally trained group.

Wait a minute, there’s more. The same testing was conducted six months later. Guess what? The retention of the material was much higher for the group trained by their own boss.

If you think about it, neither result should surprise you. Unless a boss is a very gifted teacher, he or she won’t be as effective as a professional trainer. The professional trainer, however, won’t be hanging around when the formal training ends. The boss can reinforce the training materials, and can ensure they are applied on the job.

Teaching, and specifically leader led teaching, is an important and often overlooked change management concept.

You Can Do It
First of all, if you are in a leadership position, you are already a teacher. Every day you’re guiding people in the expectation that they will think for themselves and apply your guidance in their jobs. (If you’re telling them what to do, you’re not a leader — more like a supervisor).
Granted, there’s a difference between day to day guidance and formal teaching. Even if you’re not a great speaker or don’t enjoy the formal classroom setting, just think about some of your qualifications:

You know the subject matter
You know the students
You have a vested interest in their success
You have a passion for what you’re going to teach (hopefully!)
These are advantages that are going to outweigh any limitations you have as a result of not being a trained instructor. 

Some Tips to Help You Succeed as a Teacher
Commit the Time – When you’re teaching your staff, you have the luxury of spreading the training out, perhaps 2 hours per day for a week instead of a dedicated day and a half. Go for it, but whatever time on whatever days you schedule for training, stick to it. Don’t cancel, and don’t allow interruptions to the training schedule.

Teach, Don’t Preach – Your goal is to share information and enable people to apply it. Help people understand what’s in it for them as you address what’s changing.

Ask Questions – It’s a great way to test understanding, for you and your students.

Invite Dialogue – That’s what asking questions will do. Your job gets easier when the students are discussing what’s being taught. You just have to step in when they get stuck.

Repetition – Change management concepts need to be repeated in order to be absorbed. In other words, change management concepts need to be repeated in order to be absorbed. Enough said.

Practice Ego Sacrifice – You are not a professional instructor, and you may find you’re struggling with teaching certain things like technical concepts. Remember that it’s the long term results that make you the right choice for this particular job, and be willing to let your students know that you need their help at times.