Our greatest responsibility as a leader is to help others become better versions of themselves (our second greatest is to appoint someone to run the March Madness brackets for the office pool).

Great leaders are always on the lookout for opportunities to ply this trade, alert for tell-tale teachable moments.

When you spot one, don't pass up the opportunity to invest. Here are the eight most common such moments:

1. When reality doesn't match expectations.

I recently shared this formula in a separate article:

Happiness = Reality - Expectations.

Unhappiness in the manager/employee relationship can come when, as a leader, your expectations aren't being met in reality, or when their expectations were never aligned with yours in the first place (either too low or too high).

Dig in and understand what's causing the gap and you'll find useful learning and enable some realignment.

This includes being very clear with the employee on what good looks like versus what great looks like.

2. When they're seeing things from just their side during conflicts.

A classic tell-tale teachable moment occurs when one of the parties in conflict can only see things from his/her point of view (while the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle).

Leaders must be astute enough to step back and objectively consider the opposing point of view. It strengthens the outcome, resolves conflict faster, and stretches the muscle that enables leaders to see the bigger picture.

3. When the "A" game is not present in an "A" situation.

"A" situations can include big meetings, pivotal points in a project's life, or a crisis, just to name a few.

The lack of "A" game might show up as a highly flawed recommendation, a lack of anticipating questions or concerns, or poor message delivery, among other ways that suboptimal performance shows up in high stakes situations.

Don't miss the chance to educate here.

4. When someone falls short on a risk taken.

The idea isn't to discourage risk taking but to encourage more of it.

Help the risk takers learn where they went wrong and what they could have done better to make the next venture more successful--and do so in an uplifting manner. A 2013 study by Blessing White shows that 74 percent of employees said their manager never or occasionally (at best) encouraged them to take risks.

5. When they're not aware of the perception or impression they're leaving.

This is a teachable moment, not a preachable moment. Don't lecture them on being more like you, or to have perfect behavior in all situations. It's merely a powerful opportunity to help coachees understand how they're showing up versus how they want to show up.

Too many would rather complain about the net impact of someone's behavior rather than help them to see the impact that behavior is having on its recipients.

6. When you have the chance to share the view from the window seat.

Teachable moments arise when you have an applicable experience to share.

Returning from a leadership summit where interesting and important things went on? Take the time to download the experience with your team. Just spent time with the CEO and got the chance to see how he or she thinks and acts? Share your observations with your direct reports.

Sharing the view from the window seat helps people learn by seeing "what it's like."

7. When you can identify gaps in preparation or thinking.

As responsible managers, when we spot such gaps we often instinctively just fill them in. But doing so too quickly can mean an important teachable moment is bypassed.

In such moments, help coachees see what still needs to be done or thought through, and why.

8. When tempers are lost or excuses are made.

Teachable moments occur when we don't own the moment in which we react poorly--particularly when we lose our temper or make excuses.

While there may be plenty of instances where losing one's temper is justified, it's rarely productive and presents an opportunity for reflection. What was the root cause of the outburst? How much of it can coachees own to prevent such tension in the future?

The same applies with excuse-making. Coachees can benefit from seeing how unbecoming it is, and in being honest with themselves about how much of the outcome they own.

Net, keeping a vigilant eye for teachable moments will help your people and your business with another key moment--momentum.

Published on: Jul 28, 2017
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