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The Best Way to Learn Is to Teach
We intuitively know that teaching others is the best way to learn just about anything. Any time we share a learning with others we clarify our own understanding in a much more precise way. Better yet, it exposes any gap we have in that understanding.
This is known as the Protégé Effect among those who study learning. The ideas being taught actually imprint more strongly on the teacher than on the person with whom they are sharing. Teaching is the most powerful way to learn anything, especially something new.
The best leaders take advantage of this idea with the teams they lead. Examine a high-performing team and you will likely find a myriad of short-term teaching assignments shared throughout the group.
Great leaders commonly ask others to explain, catch up, and otherwise share critical understandings in something akin to a tutorial process. Working one-on-one to describe a key learning is more about the teacher than the student, though both benefit greatly.
These short-term teaching assignments do not imply coaching, mentoring, or leading anyone, so relationship differences disappear in favor of everyone teaching everyone else. Peers teach peers and juniors teach seniors.
To avoid status disputes and to encourage everyone to participate fully, leaders rarely call these assignments “teaching.” Instead, leaders ask others to catch up, familiarize or inform others of an important idea, concept, or learning. Though the name of the exchange may vary, no one mistakes the activity as anything other than smartly educating a colleague to their benefit.
Of course, the so-called teacher receives the real benefit of a much deeper understanding. Calling this out serves no earthly purpose, so leaders avoid it. In a twist of irony, it is better to ask others to teach than it is to explain to them why.
As the expression goes, “to teach is to learn twice over.” The gains are worth every effort to get others to do it.