Leaders Help Others Grow and Improve

This is a guest post from author Richard L. Godfrey. Along with his coauthors, Gerreld L. Pulsipher and Hyrum W. Smith, their new book The 7 Laws of Learning: Why Great Leaders are also Great Teachers will be released in July.

Whether you’re writing a book, teaching a class or giving a speech, one of your goals is to help people change their behavior in ways that will improve the quality of their lives ““ in other words, you’re there to teach.

One of the most difficult lessons leaders and teachers learn is that teaching, now matter how well done does not change behavior. As a leader or a teacher it is essential to understand what you are trying to do ““ change lives ““ and how that process actually occurs.

The least desirable level of human performance is to be unconsciously incompetent. At this level you don’t know what you’re doing and you don’t know you don’t know what you’re doing. In other words, you’re the only person in the room who doesn’t know you’re clueless.

The next level up on a continuum of human performance is to be consciously incompetent ““ this sounds worse but is in fact more desirable because now, at least you know you don’t know. The move from unconsciously incompetent to consciously incompetent is facilitated by teaching. But at the point of awareness teaching confronts free will. Once aware of an opportunity to change each person must decide they will consider change or resist it. A person who, aware of an opportunity to improve, refuses to do so, is difficult, if not impossible, to help.

The role of teaching is to prompt awareness to the need of change. In the role of a person who already knows t hey need to change, the role of teaching converts to coaching. Once we are aware of an opportunity to personally improve we begin the process of change which takes us into new territory and, by default, out of our current comfort zone. By definition, leaving a comfort zone is uncomfortable ““ hence the tendency to slide back into old, dysfunctional habits. To stay out of a comfort zone long enough to learn the new behavior and develop a different type of comfort is the role of coaching. A coach sticks with us until the new behavior sticks to us. With the help of our coach we move to the level of conscious competence ““ we can do “it” right but only if we pay attention (think of learning how to drive a car and the amount of attention required to drive well when you were 16 compared to now as an adult).

Eventually, a coach has to let us go ““ to take off the training wheels and let us ride. Whether we will take the awareness gained through teaching, the change initiated through free willand the new and better habits acquired through coaching now relies on personal discipline ““ will we stick to the new habit or behavior until it sticks to us and takes us to the highest level of human performance ““ sub-conscious competence ““ we now perform at a higher level, instinctively, habitually ““ we are new and better people.

As leaders and teachers learning the roles of teaching, free will, coaching and personal discipline and working with, rather than against, these rolesis a key determinant of whether our leadership will be of the caretaker school or the school that changes an individual and the world.