Teach and Be Taught

Akio Toyoda, the newly appointed President at Toyota recently stated in his speech to the company about the importance for all team members to be open to the phrase “Teach and Be Taught“. This got me thinking how relevant this phrase is to the purpose and being of the blog.

Growing up as a kid my parents, teachers, and coaches always seemed to push me to think on my own and let me solve some of life’s opportunities (as I like to call then now). Instead of giving me answers or taking care of things for me, I learned the importance of being able to make decisions for myself and think on my feet.

For certain this applies to where I currently am employed, Toyota. As a company with a very strong philosophy where decisions can be made at all levels of the organization and you are expected to visit the gemba to do your own genchi genbutsu, you witness first hand the value of other’s taking time to teach and those being flexible to be taught. Toyota strives to make the workplace a learning organization and whether you work at a place like that or not, you should try to spend every day teaching others or learning something new whether surrounded by family and friends or with co-workers.

Lets take the phrase and focus on each word individually:

– Teach

– Be Taught

Teaching

Francis Bacon Sr. once said “Knowledge is power”. As individuals, we all have acquired different types of knowledge, some others have and some do not. Everyone takes to particular interests creating different levels of experience amongst peers. No one person knows everything, but daily you will encounter people who know more or less on particular topics.

When you know more, your focus should be on sharing that knowledge with others. Whether at home with your kids or at work with peers, you need to be open to teach. Teaching is not natural for some, but if we want to further those around us, you should make a point to teach something to someone everyday. For instance, this could be teaching your daughter how to swim in the pool or taking time to demonstrate to a peer at work how to run an effective meeting.

Teaching is not always in a controlled setting either. For instance, sometimes I hear team members who share that they don’t receive coaching from their Supervisors in their One on One meetings, but after asking some questions, you grasp that the Supervisor is giving specific coaching at that person’s desk throughout the day. Teaching others can come at any time or place. Don’t wait for specific circumstances to teach your knowledge to others.

Be Taught

Not everyone is interested in being taught. Some people believe their way is the best way and they aren’t always looking for feedback. To be taught you need to have an open mind. If you think that you can’t learn from your kids because you are older or that as a Supervisor you feel as if your way is always the right way, then you are mistaken. You need to start everyday with an open mind.

You also need to think deeply. When the opportunity arises to learn something new, consider alternatives and maybe through your deep thinking you can adjust other’s thinking. Situations aren’t so one-sided, you often can be teaching one moment and be learning the next moment.

Listening is a critical skill when it comes to being taught. So often when you are not interested or already thinking of your next action, you fail to give the moment you are in your fullest attention. Listening if done correctly requires discipline and a true interest in each of your conversations throughout the day. If you are sitting in a One on One and have become disengaged from your meeting because you have already covered your items, you miss out on an opportunity to learn something. Not every single meeting will result in you walking away with that “lightbulb moment”, but if you aren’t listening you’ll never know.

Genchi genbutsu (go and see) is effective when being taught. If you are learning how to play golf, wouldn’t you like to go see others play? Or if your Supervisor is asking you to learn a business process, wouldn’t it be easier if you went to the actual site where the users perform the process to see it yourself to speak with others and even do the work. When being taught, you should be willing to do some genchi genbutsu.

Starting the Day

From this day forward, think about how rewarding it would feel to know that you have shared your knowledge with others and in return learned something new that you could apply. See if you can apply the phrase “Teach and Be Taught” into your day and see how it impacts the people around you.

Any comments or feedback is welcomed.

P.S. If you have never heard of the ‘gemba’ or of ‘genchi genbutsu’, go do a little investigation on your own to learn more about it.

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for life.”

Jason

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