Saturday, September 26, 2015

Teachability - a Significant Soft Skill for Leaders

"If You Want to Learn, Be Teachable" -- By John C. Maxwell

There is an old saying that “you can't teach an old dog new tricks,” but the concept called “teachability” remains a key component for ensuring that the professionals of all walks are successful in their pursuit. This is all the more important in the IT because the "Change" here happens at a faster pace and those being teachable get better in their career towards becoming a leader.

Today's educational methods and curriculum are designed with a basic assumption that the students are teachabile. But when teachers find few students who lack this skill, they get into frustration. This makes the gap between teaching and teachability widening. The teachability factor should form part of the early school curriculum, so that it pays the fruits as the student pass through the further stages of education. 

Today's kids are smarter and they are born with Smart gadgets and devices and they handle these devices far better than their grandfathers. But this smartness does not mean that they are teachable. Being teachable is closely related to adaptability and being Curious. To be teachable, one has to be: quick to learn and observe; take direction, advice, correction when you make a mistake, etc.; and learn from all of those. Both parents and the teachers should be trained to improve these teachability traits of the students right from the childhood.

The character of Teachability has two aspects to it; one is being a learner and the other is to pass it on, to share insights and what we have learned with others. It is first being a learner, absorbing and applying what one has come through, then replicating that in others. To be a person who can teach we have to be a person who is teachable. Being teachable is a choice. We choose whether we are open or closed to new ideas, new experiences, others’ ideas, people’s feedback, and willingness to change. The key to teachability is not just that we try ideas on for size, but that we actually learn from others and change our point of view, process, and future decision making based on the what we have learned.

We all know that "Change is the only Constant thing" and the change is happening every where. For IT, the change happens in a faster pace. Newer tools and technologies emerge quite faster, needing the IT professionals on the run to learn things continuously. One of the important characteristic required to adapt change is being Teachable. Today’s competitive advantage goes to those who can learn and adapt faster, which are the important traits of being teachable. 

The work and decision making enviornment is different across work places. One should be willing to adapt and learn to these changing enviornment and circumstances and simply put be teachable.

Here are the important traits of Teachability:

Conducive to Learning - Approach each day as an opportunity for new learning experience. Have open minded and listen to people. There is a certain learning opportunity from every person you meet. Teachable persons remain alert for new ideas and always expect something to learn in every problem they face. They know that success has less to do with possessing natural talent and more to do with choosing to learn.

Be a Beginner for ever - When people are actually beginners, they have the mind set to be trained and learn. But as we all know, once they get better in the subject and reap more and more successes, they tend to get carried away and get to a state of closed minded. To be teachable, one has to stay in the beginner's mind-set for ever. The more success you have, the harder it is to maintain the beginner's mind-set because you are much more likely to think you know the answer and have less to learn. Believing in and practicing the following will help one to keep the beginners' mind-set: everyone has something to teach me; every day I have something to learn; and every time I learn something, I benefit.

Reflect and Change -Becoming and remaining teachable requires people to honestly and openly reflect and evaluate themselves continuously. Any time you face a challenge, loss, or problem, one of the first things you need to ask yourself is, “Am I the cause?” If the answer is yes, then you need to be ready to make changes. Recognizing your own part in your failings, no matter how painful, and working hard to correct your mistakes, leads to the ability to change, grow, and move forward in life.

Inter-Personal Skill - Inter-Personal skill will help nurture the art of learning from perople around. Be open minded and freely speaking to those around you to openly, yet honestly share the facts of not only work but also personal life. This will help strengthen the relationship, being approachable with those around and thus help get honest feedback. This will also make them courageous and honest enough to speak freely. Be willing to accept such feedback and criticism.

Learn Unto Death - The secret to any person’s success can be found in his or her daily agenda. People grow and improve, not by huge leaps and bounds, but by small, incremental changes. Teachable people try to leverage this truth by learning something new every day. A single day is enough to make us a little larger or a little smaller. Several single days strung together will make us a lot larger or a lot smaller. If we do that every day, day upon day, there is great power for change.

Non-Defensive - After you receive any form of constructive criticism, think about it and decide how you will act differently in the future. Don't get defensive when called out. Instead, learn from it and improve, so you don't make the same mistake again. Many of these lessons will come from the school of hard knocks. A teachable person is non-defensive. When they are wrong they quickly admit their wrongdoing and seek to learn how to be better next time. A teachable person allows others to speak truths learned from experience into their lives. A teachable person does not make unilateral decisions but seeks wisdom and knowledge from multiple people.

As you would have observed, Teachability requires certain soft skills, which are not easy to acquire. Though this is not to "born-with" skill, one can put in efforts to become teachable. Most of the organizations today are considering soft skills as most valuable than the hard skills, because, hard skills can be acquired on the job, but soft skills are not as easy to acquire. Thougn many of the recruiters are looking for Teachability as a soft skill, they are certainly looking for the traits that form part of Teachability. Like for instance, for most of the recruiters, the above mentioned traits figure in their evaluation checklist.

John C Maxwell suggests the following to pursue Teachability:

Learn to Listen - As the old saying goes, “There’s a reason you have one mouth and two ears.” Listen to others and remain humble, and you will learn things that can help you expand your talent.

Understand the Learning Process - Act, Reflect, Improve and Repeat

Look for and Plan Teachable Moments - By reading books, visiting places that inspire you, attending events that prompt you to pursue change, and spending time with people who stretch you and expose you to new experiences.

Make your teachable moments count - Pay attention to:
  • Points they need to think about
  • Changes they need to make
  • Lessons they need to apply
  • Information that they need to share
Ask yourself, “Am I really teachable?” - Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I open to other people’s ideas?
  • Do I listen more than I talk?
  • Am I open to changing my opinion based on new information?
  • Do I readily admit when I am wrong?
  • Do I observe before acting on a situation?
  • Do I ask questions?
  • Am I willing to ask a question that will expose my ignorance?
  • Am I open to doing things in a way I haven’t done before?
  • Am I willing to ask for directions?
  • Do I act defensive when criticized, or do I listen openly for truth?
A "no" to one or more questions above would mean that you have something to work on.