I was a Boy Scout when I was a kid, and from that experience came a number of good life and business lessons. We had a saying in our troop that sticks with me to this day:
“You don’t know it until you’ve taught it.”
Whether you’re an entrepreneur, executive, sales manager or any other kind of professional, this is sage advice.
The adult leaders of our Boy Scout troop were committed to teaching the kids how to become leaders. They often turned over the responsibility of teaching the younger members to the older members, and as they did, they reminded us, “You don’t know it until you’ve taught it.”
The adults could have easily taught the younger kids how to tie knots, set up tents and start campfires much faster than the older boys did, but that wasn’t the point. The goal was to force the older kids to truly know — and master — the concepts through teaching it to others.
When you teach someone how to do something, you concentrate. You study up. You learn it and understand it at a much deeper level.
As a teacher, you look at the subject matter from more than one angle. You anticipate questions and prepare possible answers. You are forced to organize your thoughts in order to make a cogent presentation to the learners.
I experienced this firsthand in 2003 when I accepted an adjunct faculty position teaching real estate at my local university. I was working in real estate and held a real estate license. But I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know about real estate until I started putting together a syllabus and a semester’s worth of class lectures.
While I thought I knew a lot about real estate before becoming an instructor, I knew infinitely more after preparing 15 three-hour lectures and fielding pointed questions from a bunch of college seniors who were paying tuition in order to hear what I had a say.
It was obvious from day one that a class full of future real estate professionals fully expected their professor to know everything about their future profession. I had to be constantly on my game, and it was a darned good experience for me.
If you’re an executive, company owner or sales manager, think of ways you can use more experienced employees to teach newer employees. I guarantee you everyone will benefit.
Of course, you don’t have to be in a leadership position to capitalize on this little truism. Take the initiative to help newer team members. Think of the things you do well and then go out of your way to help a colleague understand those things better. If a colleague is struggling with something, help him figure it out.
By doing this you will benefit the entire organization, build a friendship with the person you teach and improve your own skills at the same time.
Once you have taken the time to teach a colleague, you will fully realize that you don’t know it until you’ve taught it.
Jeff Beals is an Omaha author and speaker who can be reached at www.JeffBeals.com.