Engineering Teachable Moments

I am learning that one of the greatest leadership tools, also readily applicable as a parent, is the Teachable Moment. The art of leveraging, even engineering, a point of learning inflection that your staff, volunteers or children can experience is formative.

Teachable moments are a leadership discipline intuitive to many organizational leaders, and powerfully instructive to followers, especially in aligning high-capacity leaders around vision. Parenting through teachable moments can immediately impact your children and help them FEEL your family values, not just HEAR them.

In churches, businesses, non-profits and families alike, values are more caught than taught.

Recently, instead of trying to counteract our child’s proclivity to an “I find, therefore I own” mindset, Kelly and I took in a stray dog from our cul-de-sac. We created a story about another child who is missing their puppy in order to help our daughter understand finders are not keepers, and help motivate her to canvas the neighborhood with flyers.

Sure enough, the owner showed up and told our 8 year-old daughter that her 4 year-old daughter had cried for the last two nights. MJ’s tears of joy mixed with sadness taught her more about a family value of Generosity over Entitlement, than even our most well-placed parental words ever could.

When training church leaders on vision clarity integration at Auxano, the creation of role-play scenarios around a plausible story forces participants into real-time conversational usage. Ministerial Staff are forced to reconcile the vision language into their own words during these teachable moments, and not merely repeat parts of sermonic phrases that they almost remember.

Here are 2 Do’s and 1 Don’t in engineering a teachable moment as a leader: 

Do… Step Out Of the Way. Every leader has some level of controlling issues. Own yours and do not let your desire for “just the right words” to be spoken in a conversation impede the learning of your team. Your confidence in your staff probably has nothing to do with them. Most likely, it has everything to do with your prior diligence in handing-off moments where vision could get hijacked over handling them yourself.

Do… Step Alongside. Especially as a parent, your presence at the side of your child as they walk through a challenging, even heartbreaking spiritual moment allows you to collect their tears on your shoulder in failure or affirm and celebrate their success. Staff teams need to feel your presence and the trust you have in them.

Don’t… Step Aside. Too many Senior Pastors set-up or allow the teachable moment to happen and then exit the situation. Fight the leadership tendency to move on, and stay engaged through the moment, when your leadership matters the most. A follow-up call asking your team member how the tough conversation went can teach them more about what motivates your mission than a sermon or meeting devotional ever will.

How has a teachable moment impacted your leadership or parenting?