Posted by: Brandon W. Jones | January 24, 2010

Becoming A Teachable Manager

In the article Teaching Smart People How to Learn by Chris Argyris, Chris explains that the smartest or most educated people within an organization are the hardest ones to teach within the corporate environment.  He also explains that those same people, when put in the academic environment, are very teachable.  Generally the managers within the company have the highest level of education.  One aspect he highlighted was that managers, when asked to look within themselves for areas of improvement, are very reluctant.  They in turn find the faults and reasons of failure in others and begin to play the blame game. 

There are two reasons why the educated become less teachable in the corporate environment compared to the academic environment. 

  1. The academic environment is thought of as a safe house with everyone equal.
  2. The division of authority and responsibility in the corporate world generates pride and an inability to learn. 

The Safe House of the Academics

Managers in the academic world are willing to learn and are very teachable.  The academic world is a safe house for learning.  In the learning/safe house environment, managers are open to suggestion because they won’t receive a poor work evaluation based on their comments and responses.  In the academic world, managers are able to learn and be very open.  They enter the academic world with the expectation of learning something new.  In the academic world, managers have a sense of equality amongst their peers in the classroom.  Managers entering the academic world become students and have a much more humble attitude.  They expect to be taught and are open to learn.

The Pride of the Managers

Managers are given authority to lead, and with that authority comes additional responsibility.  When individuals receive an added measure of authority and responsibility, it is the natural disposition of all men and women to feel they are superior.  They begin to feel they are smarter or more experienced and deserving than others to be in the position of leadership.  Although, it is true that they must have specific qualifications to be in their position, they change in their disposition.  They begin to develop a level of arrogance thinking they are better than their subordinate employees.  This disposition is a level of pride.  Once managers develop this pride/arrogance, they shut themselves off from their subordinates.  The managers develop a sense that they are better than their subordinates.  Once managers have reached this stage, they discount the ideas of all their subordinates and are no longer humble and teachable.

Overcoming the Pride of the Position

In order for a manager to overcome the pride of the position, they must realize the goal of the company and understand that every employee is a part of the whole team.  By realizing that the company is a team, they will understand that the company will only be as strong as the weakest link.  In order for the team to work at full strength, everyone must be working together.  The managers must be humble and know that they don’t have all the answers to all the questions.  They must also understand that their success depends on the success of those they work with.  In cases where the manager could improve to help the team, they must make the changes necessary.  The managers must be teachable.  They must forget about themselves with a “me, me, me” attitude and work for the success of the team.  If they do that, the team will work together for a common goal and the company will be successful.  The success of the company will reflect on the leadership of the managers.


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