Last week I started teaching my undergraduate leadership course. I gave all the students a blue 3×5 index card and a gold one. “Write a blue card if something made you feel the blues in here,” I told them, “and a gold if something made you feel golden.” Over the course of seven semesters one message has dominated the gold cards turned back in to me:
“I felt golden when you had us break into smaller groups to discuss the issue.”
I’ve got to tell you that I always cringe a little when I read that card. Why? I have a hidden assumption that there is a basic fixed-sum at work: it’s either me (smartly) teaching, or it’s them talking. So, the more they talk, the less time for me to teach. Does that card mean I need to teach less? And the more they like their discussions, then, my assumption goes, the less they like what I am teaching. Like most assumptions, this one, when expressed clearly, looks both vain and foolhardy.
And their gold-card direction reflects clearly the message attributed to Confucius.
“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”
I know this is right. The students will remember and incorporate the learning much more effectively when they have had the opportunity to experience the ideas and to have exchanged them with each other.
Of course, this Confucian wisdom speaks as powerfully to us as managers and parents and preachers, as it does to those of us who teach. We think our job is to pour knowledge – and that is a part – but whether our people are selling, learning, teaching, assembling, or cutting grass, they’ll learn — and own the work — so much more powerfully when we get them to talk and engage, than when we do the talking.
What if you gave them say 10% more time on this week’s agendas, meetings, presentations and reviews to speak their mind?!
Lead with your best self,