I thought I’d do a series of blogs about our “method” or process. I probably get asked about how we do our work more often than any other question. It is a key question not only for clients but for our new employees.
I plan to touch on a few different aspects of our leadership development methodology, including our discovery process, assessment process, and design process. All of these are in some sense “proprietary” but none of them are easily imitated. I’m happy to open the kimono so-to-speak.
In this first post, I’ll focus on teaching vs training. We regularly use the word “teaching” to talk about our work. It is the most common word used internally to describe what we do when we are flying off on plane to go and do it, and probably equally common when talking with clients or prospective clients. We rarely use the word “training”, although most of our industry refers to itself this way.
Our distinction is not intended to be snobby. Good training is exceptionally important. Good teaching is exceptionally important. The two are closely related.
What, if any, difference between these two terms is relevant for our practice?
For me and many others that have written about the distinction, training is aimed at developing a concrete and well-defined skill. We tend to use training most often in a professional context because of this meaning. After all, professionals are “done” with formal education, right?
Teaching, on the other hand, implies two things that matter to our work:
1) Leadership ability is not easily reduced to discrete skills. The ability to lead and manage involves an array of important skills (e.g., managing budgets, giving feedback). We do include training on such skills in our work. However, none of these alone is sufficient to develop leadership. That’s what is amazing about leadership and leadership development. It requires investigation of one’s values, one’s biases, and one’s emotions. Self-awareness, adaptability, and moral fibre are complicated “skills” (if they are even skills at all).
2) Teachers know things. Sometimes, training can be seen as a technical skill only. Meaning, if we learn certain training methods, we can train anyone on any skill, as long as we are clear about the objectives . A reductionist view of training would suggest we don’t really need to know much about what is being trained, as long as we know how to train. I don’t like this view of training – and don’t agree with it – but it does exist. Our consultants, in contrast, are expected to know something about what they teach. Indeed, we expect them to know a lot about what they are teaching … have insights about leadership, management, communication, feedback, EQ, and the disciplines we teach.
Ultimately I see good teaching as something that opens conversations. One of our partners, David Gibbons, will always get asked to help people with finance management on their personal financial decisions or on matters of investment. He helps make “finance fun”, to use one of his favorite expressions. Teaching sparks curiosity in others because our passion and depth of knowledge is infectious. This is precisely what we are all about at The Refinery.