Vince Lombardi once said, “I think coaching is teaching, see? So I don’t think there’s any difference whether you teach on the football field or whether you teach in the classroom. They’re both exactly the same. It’s a question of . . . a good teacher puts across what he wants to his pupils. Whether it’s done on a football field or whether it’s done in a classroom, it’s one and the same.”
What about the manager as a teacher? If you take Lombardi’s words and change “coaching” to “managing,” it would go something like this: “I think managing is teaching, see? So I don’t think there’s any difference whether you teach in the office or whether you teach in the classroom. They’re both exactly the same. It’s a question of . . . a good teacher puts across what he wants to his pupils. Whether it’s done in an office or whether it’s done in a classroom, it’s one and the same.”
It still works. Think for a moment about the role of a teacher. A teacher must lead a group of students in a common setting, yet each student is unique. Each individual has a different level of intelligence, learns at her own rate, and even has a unique level of interest in the subject matter. Each student comes from a different home situation and economic standards and has a unique personality. It’s up to the teacher to bridge all of those differences so that every student has the opportunity to master the subject. Tell me that doesn’t sound like managing people in your office.
So, what makes a great teacher also can make a great manager:
Mastery of the subject. A good teacher intimately knows the subject matter he teaches. This allows him to take different approaches in conveying the information so that he can reach each type of learner. To reach all students, the teacher must be so comfortable with the subject that he can be nimble in his approach, varying his methods of teaching so that everyone can learn. A good manager is experienced and has a firm grasp of the business at hand. He’s so comfortable in the details of the business that he can share them easily with those he manages.
Patience. A good teacher is patient with her students. She knows not everyone is going to learn at the same rate. She also recognizes that not everyone will have the same passion or aptitude for the subject. The teacher understands that she must be patient enough to make sure every student understands what is being taught. A good manager realizes that not everyone in her charge has her level of experience and trains her people based on their rate of learning, not her rate of teaching. She knows when to take it slow and that the real goal is to have well-trained people—not just to get the training over with.
Believes in the fundamentals. A good teacher takes nothing for granted. He makes sure he shares even the most basic of details so that every student has the same base of knowledge and same opportunity. John Wooden, the famed college basketball coach, would start every season by teaching his players how to put their socks on correctly! No detail is too small. A good manager doesn’t assume that his people know how to do the little things; he shows them. He understands the little things can make a big difference and instills that understanding in his people. The fundamentals are the building blocks of greatness.
Knows people. A good teacher knows her students. She understands what makes them tick, how to motivate them to learn, and who they are as individuals. She knows she can’t treat every student the same because each one is unique, and to help each student reach his or her potential, she must know them at a personal level. A good manager does the same. She must know when to push and challenge and when to give someone a pat on the back. She must come to understand each person she works with and know what it takes to get the best out of them. A good manager, like a good teacher, must become part psychologist because in the end, it’s all about people.
John Wooden said, “The coach is first of all a teacher.” The same can be said of a manager. A manager is first of all a teacher. And a successful manager shares many traits with those who have mastered the art of teaching. To be a great manager, you need to know your business, practice patience, understand the importance of the fundamentals, and understand intimately the people you are charged with managing. It doesn’t matter if you’re dealing with a bunch of third graders or grown adults—people are people, and what it takes to teach them doesn’t ever change.