Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” So then why does it seem as though our most intelligent and skilled workers are incapable of explaining their methods? These people have proven they know what they’re doing… they clearly understand their tasks… so why can’t they help the rest of us understand them?
Q: As an expert, how do you increase your ability to share your wealth of knowledge?
A: By breaking into the mind of a teacher.
First, it’s important to know that learning works like building blocks.
There’s a French educational theorist named Jean Piaget who was responsible for the idea that a student cannot learn something unless they have something else within their knowledge base to connect it to. You can’t learn math by beginning with calculus. You have to start with learning addition, subtraction, then multiplication. You can’t begin at the top… you have to start at the bottom.
Within the workplace (depending on the level of employee you’re attempting to mentor), it’s expected that your mentee has a knowledge base—whether it comes from work experience or schooling. However, different people will retain different information so it’s in your best interests to start small. Those lessons don’t have to take long, but must take place.
Second, you have to convince them of the value of the material.
Individuals retain more of the information that feels pertinent to them. It may seem to you (as the expert) that everything you’re attempting to teach is relevant and important because you use those skills daily. However, for a newbie, the lessons (especially at the beginning) may seem irrelevant—if you can fit things into the bigger picture, it’ll help convince them of the value.
Third, learn their skills and adjust your mentoring accordingly.
Your mentee may have a particular set of talents or skills that allows them to progress more quickly in some areas than others. It’s important to recognize these talents because it will force your methods of instruction to change, becoming almost nonexistent in some areas and more rigorous in others.
From a workplace standpoint, knowing the skills each person brings to the table is necessary because it allows you to capitalize on those talents and help them to advance themselves and your company.
Fourth, make sure they’re following you and provide constructive feedback.
Now that you’re out of school, it’s expected that your mentee will be listening to everything you say; however, people will still lose focus and if an incorrect method is practiced, it will lose you and your company time and money. It’s even worse when that incorrect lesson is practiced because it takes a lot more time to unlearn and relearn new skills than it does to teach the skills in the first place. Providing feedback in a timely manner will prevent this and save both parties a great deal of frustration.
For a busy mentor, it may seem impossible to devote more time to training and coaching new employees, but the time spent pays off. By coaching our experts to teach and better share information, we will have a greater chance of attaining the progress we seek within our companies and across the globe. Contact our team at Evolution Coaching if you need help as a mentor OR mentee – the Career Coaching and Leadership Development we provide is invaluable!