(And that’s how you do a handstand.)
Every manager has experienced the (potentially) frustrating experience of trying to teach another person how to do something complicated and important that is intrinsic to their job.
Maybe you have gone through a thorough hiring process and found someone who is smart, motivated and experienced, but now you have to pass along your knowledge so that you can start handing off some work and get to bigger things. And it is in this transition that most managers begin to struggle with the impatience of how to get their new hires up to speed.
1. Tell: The first thing that we try is just telling people what needs to be done. (Think: I need you to do a handstand at 3:00 today.) Some people come to us with prior knowledge, and therefore intuitively know how to do a handstand. Cherish these hires, but they can hide your inability to communicate the idea.
2. Show: This is the second stage and the most common one for managers because we know that we can do it and the other person wants you to show them how to do it. The problem is that people rarely learn by watching other people do something that they themselves can’t do. (Again, imagine learning how to do a backflip just by watching someone do it.) This is a trap for most managers because it can foster the impression that the new hire is helpless and that the manager is indispensable (“See, no one can do this like me”), which may feed his ego but not help him become a better leader for the organization.
3. Explain: This is the most powerful strategy for the manager, but it requires a few important skills. You need to be patient, clear and empathetic. Rather than just focus on the goal (hitting the target, doing a handstand, doing a trustworthy month-end profit and loss), spend your time breaking down the steps of the process. (Like the picture above.)
As you are explaining the steps, try to listen to the places where they are confused and imagine what it would be like from their perspective. Listen for the confusion and be curious. The more that you focus on what is getting in their way and the clearer you are on what allows you to be able to do it, the easier it will be teach them.
And ultimately that is what you must become: a better teacher.