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 his or 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.
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So, what makes a great teacher also can make a great manager:
- Mastery of the subject. Good teachers intimately know the subject matter they teach. This allows them to take different approaches in conveying the information so that they can reach each type of learner. To reach all students, teachers must be so comfortable with the subject that they can be nimble in their approach, varying the methods of teaching so that everyone can learn. Good managers are experienced and have a firm grasp of the business at hand. They are so comfortable in the details of the business that they can share them easily with those they manage.
- Patience. Good teachers are patient with their students. They know not everyone is going to learn at the same rate. They also recognize that not everyone will have the same passion or aptitude for the subject. The teachers understand that they must be patient enough to make sure every student understands what is being taught. Good managers realize that not everyone in their charge has their level of experience; they train their people based on the peoples’ rate of learning, not the teachers’ rate of teaching. Good teachers know 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. Good teachers make sure they share 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. Good managers don’t assume that people know how to do the little things; they show them. Good managers understand that little things can make a big difference and instill that understanding in their people. The fundamentals are the building blocks of greatness.
- Knows people. Good teachers know their students. They understand what makes them tick, how to motivate them to learn, and who they are as individuals. Good teachers know they can’t treat every student the same because each one is unique, and to help each student reach his or her potential, the teacher must know them at a personal level. Good managers do the same. They must know when to push and challenge and when to give someone a pat on the back. They must come to understand each person they work with and know what it takes to get the best out of the person. 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 adults—people are people, and what it takes to teach them doesn’t ever change.