Don't teach me, just tell me what to do.

“Don’t teach me, just tell me what to do.” When I first heard those words, I was training someone on the use of the Minfos stock control and point of sale system back in 1997. As they rolled out of the mouth of someone whom I thought was quite intelligent; I stopped dead in my tracks with horror. I was trying to explain concepts of how the system works so that they didn’t need to be trained up on a micro-level on every aspect of the system; they could use the concepts to find their way around the software.

It was a startling revelation. Up until that point, I had assumed that everybody wanted concept-driven shortcuts. I would always learn the concepts so that I could fill in the knowledge gaps and did not have to waste time with rote learning everything. Therefore I knew where to find the knowledge that I needed, when required.

In our modern era of change, constant revolution evolution, you’re trying to find the right team members, someone who says “don’t teach me, just tell me what to do” is probably not suitable for an evolving organisation. I’m not saying that you don’t need these people. It’s just that more automation and technology is eliminating the press button, tick a box mentality in our workforce.

Unfortunately, for some organisations, there will always be the scripted box tick component. Granted you still need well defined processes and procedures. However, there’s an increasing demand for people who update their skills and knowledge and grow the business. Granted your business has a mix of different skill sets. There will always be a range of jobs, and there will always be things that do not require rocket scientists, and intellectual gurus. However do you want engaged staff who can adapt?

Business is dynamic and you probably don’t want staff telling you fifty excuses every day; why they can’t change. The ultimate goal is to have a team that’s engaged and prepared to learn. Look at ten years ago, even five years ago, make a list of things that you were doing. Compare that to what you’re doing today. Would you say a lot has changed? If it hasn’t, then maybe it’s time for a review or maybe you’ve nailed it and just need engaged staff. I’m not talking about staff with scripted answers. I’m talking about how they react, how they get involved. Are they interested in the industry?

Find people that are mentally and emotionally invested in what you’re doing, because then your business can run on autopilot. You’re avoiding the whole need to micromanage because engaged staff use their initiative to fill in the gaps using guidelines and concepts. They think holistically; they look at what’s going on. They see the big picture; they engage in the moment. Are mindful of what’s going on and aware of the customer. 

The phrase “don’t teach me, just tell me what to do” is a warning sign though, a litmus test of those may not cope with change in your business. You can’t change everything overnight. I get that. I’m one of these people that wishes they could, but by building an infrastructure to deal with change and having people who are okay with change, you have a better chance of success. They will become your future leaders and managers within your business. These are the people who can step up to the plate when the time comes. Because they’re already thinking that way, they don’t need to training to think differently. They already do.

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