Leaders are asked to do things all the time they weren’t trained to do.  It is the nature of the role.  One of the most consistent and often neglected challenges for leaders who aren’t trained in it is being a teacher.  Whether, it is formal teaching, informal training, or orientation, teaching skills are necessary and have a big impact.

I’ve spent over 20 years teaching, training, and coaching.  I’ve made nearly every mistake there is to make in front of classes, teams or clients.  I’ve also worked with people who were required to teach classes and had no background in it.  Here are a few things I think help if you need to teach or train in your organization.

Leader as teacher

Embrace the Role

There is nothing worse than sitting in a class led by someone who doesn’t want to be there.  Even if you think you can hide it, you are wrong.  Adults who attend trainings are often a little skeptical, to begin with.  They will know immediately if your heart isn’t in it.  What does it mean to embrace the role of teacher?

  • Be enthusiastic about the topic.
  • Be genuinely welcoming to the people who are there.
  • Be prepared. (More on that later)
  • Be well rested and bring your best self.
  • Get some training or look for tips online.
  • DO NOT read directly from the training manual.
  • Find ways to connect the material to people’s work or their real life.
  • Acknowledge but don’t wallow in the reality if the training is mandated or required by the organization.

Adult Learners Have Unique Assets and Needs

At the beginning of each training or workshop I lead, I always include something like this in my introduction.  “The information I will be presenting today is based on research, my education, my background, and my experience.  You all are experienced adults, so you have your own, education, background, expertise and experience.  If something I say doesn’t line up for you, please be sure to say something.”  As an adult learner, it can be really frustrating if the trainer doesn’t acknowledge that the people in the room are not empty vessels to be filled with the instructor’s expertise.  Learners rightfully feel disrespected when this happens.  When you can successfully engage a group and they share their thoughts and knowledge appropriately as part of the class, everyone benefits.

Here are some other things to keep in mind for adult learners:

  • They need to see the point.
  • They see themselves as independent.
  • They need to be “ready to learn” for development to be effective.
  • They need to see the practicality of the learning.
  • Trainers need to be aware of knowledge and life experience.
  • Trainers need to activate internal motivation to engage adult learners.
  • Do not do truly silly things or childish activities.

Be Prepared to Teach

I once sat through a weekend-long class that was taught by a group of people.  By the second instructor, it was clear they hadn’t prepared individually or as a group.  That second instructor, who had been in and out of the room during the first portion, spent 30 minutes covering much of the same material the first instructor had covered.  The rest of the weekend followed a similar path.

We are all busy.  We all are juggling multiple projects.  But, if you are teaching a class, your most basic responsibility is to show up prepared.  Again, attendees will know immediately if you are not.  Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years.

  • Confirm all the class logistics well ahead of time.  (Attendance lists, certificates, technology, food and beverages, copies, supplies, etc.)
  • Be well rested and make sure you’ve eaten and used the bathroom before the class begins.
  • Set the room up for the type of learning environment you want. Do not skip this step. (Seating arrangement, lighting, sound, basic needs)
  • TEST YOUR TECHNOLOGY.  (I’m amazed at the number of trainings I still attend where people are dealing with technology issues 15-20 minutes into the class.  We all know this can be an issue, so don’t be that person.)
  • Make enough copies so you have a few extras.  Print a paper copy of your PowerPoint if you plan to use one.
  • Procure and use any assistive technologies needed for the group. (Use of subtitles on videos is becoming standard practice.)
  • If a microphone is provided, use it.
  • Pay attention to the room temperature and adjust appropriately if you can.
  • Don’t plan to reply to e-mails or get any work done while you are teaching.  (Your full focus should be on the class, even when they are working on something.)

As we all know, there is no substitute for experience, but hopefully, these tips will help if teaching is one of your responsibilities.

Jerritt Johnston is the Owner of True North Consultants, which promotes organizational, individual and team growth through challenging, fun and relevant activities and processes.  True North is an Authorized Partner for Everything DiSC®and The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team™