(originally published August 16th, 2005)

I know my field fairly well, thank goodness. As a consultant, to be successful you need to know a lot, but not everything. What you do know, you need to know very well.

One of those things that sometimes catches me off guard is how things that are very simple to me seem to be so difficult for others, especially people you know are fairly intelligent because of their degrees, not necessarily their positions. I work with many people who had to get specialized training many times, and had to pass many tests to be allowed to do their jobs. Yet, I present my concepts to them, things I figure they should easily pick up, and it just doesn’t happen.

Many people become managers, supervisors, etc, because of what they know, rather than any particular leadership skills. They could easily find ways to make themselves better managers if they could figure out how to teach those who now report to them what they know. But most people who find that they know something very well and picked up on it easily often fail when it’s time to try to teach someone else the same thing.

Why is this? I like to use my example of playing piano, and learning it when I was 10 years old. As I got older and met more people who learned that I knew how to play, I would have many people ask me to teach them how to play. So I would try, but when they couldn’t even grasp where middle C was every time, I would get very frustrated and give up the ghost. I just couldn’t figure out why I got it, and the musical concepts, and they couldn’t.

And that’s basically the thing. When it comes to the job, it’s imperative that leaders and managers learn how to pass their knowledge on to others. That’s really the most important skill that’s needed for you to be effective, and your employees will value that almost as much as anything else you could ever do for them.

So, work on finding ways, no matter how easy you need to make it, to educate your employees. Everyone who gets better makes you look better, and helps your department become more productive.