Education should be a routine part of employee development plans

One of the advantages of being a teacher’s kid came from the times when Dad had to go to school on a Saturday to prepare for next week’s classes. I always volunteered to go along usually with my younger brother Jack.

While Dad completed his work, Jack and I went to the gym and usually found a basketball or two lying around. It was glorious to have the gym all to ourselves. As we grew, we could actually get the ball high enough to have a chance of making a bucket.

The whole school seemed different and a bit spooky with no students, teachers, or lights. When we tired of our explorations, we ended up in Dad’s science classroom. There we watched the fish tanks. We would have our fill of them soon because Dad brought them home for the summer so he could tend to them easily.

Dad explained his task at hand of taking inventory of the chemicals and necessary equipment. He described the nature and reaction potential of each chemical. Sometimes he had us hold two wires attached to a small, crank generator to see how much electricity we could stand. If Jack held the wires and I grabbed him, I would get the shock and Jack felt nothing.

Dad explained the scientific principle behind every experiment. We had the privilege of learning high school science while still in grade school. Dad often had me grade his tests with a key made of holes in a piece of paper that identified the correct multiple choice answers.

Dad was a teacher through and through. Everything in life had a connection to science. When he put a spoon full of sugar into his cup of coffee, he often asked, “Son do you know why the level of coffee doesn’t raise when I put in the sugar?” After he explained it a couple of times, I had the correct response, “Because the sugar molecules go between the coffee molecules and become a solution.”

My brothers, sister, and I sometimes made fun of Dad’s preoccupation with science and teaching but as I grew older I learned to appreciate this characteristic in him.

Today, I suggest to my clients that teaching is a key set of behaviors for the best facilitative leaders. Leaders should be focused on teaching followers all the skills necessary for their success. They should also set up structures for employees to learn continually. Coaching and team skills should be taught to all employees and mentoring systems should be designed and implemented. Simplified curriculum for technical job skills for new employees to get up to speed quickly should be developed. This curriculum can also be used as refresher courses for experienced employees. Education is not just something to be done in high school and college. It should be a routine part of your employee development plan. The best leaders are those who have a learning plan for themselves and their staff for whom they are responsible.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s completely revised, third printing of The Facilitative Leader: Behaviors that Enable Success, visit his Web site, or call him at 740-629-4536. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.