Earlier we discussed the value of soft skills when evaluating people, especially prospective employees. Today we’re going to focus on a specific soft skill that supersedes the rest: teachability. It is a unique trait that often makes or breaks an effective leader.
One definition of teachability is “able and willing to learn”. Being teachable and humble are perhaps the most significant and vital qualities for success in all aspects of one’s life. Teachable people approach life with a desire to learn from everyone they meet regardless of that person's status in life. We demonstrate humility when we learn from criticism or seek the counsel of others.
A mind that is stretched by a new experience never goes back to its old dimensions. - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
On the other hand, being unteachable is a hindrance to developing and growing a successful business. The lack of ability to receive constructive feedback may significantly impede one’s performance because we have not allowed room for input to improve ourselves.
We have all worked with people who are “unteachable”. Often, these people are blinded by pride and arrogance. They frequently lack confidence, self-respect, and an interest in self-improvement. They may work diligently but find themselves repeatedly trapped in the same unrelenting quandary. An unteachable leader feels the need to be “right” and is not open to others’ ideas or constructive criticism. Unfortunately, some leaders fight so stubbornly that they end up losing all they’ve worked for. Don’t let this be you!
Teachability is primarily about an attitude successful leaders embrace. It is a choice. It is the desire to listen, learn, and apply. It is the hunger to discover new ways of doing things and a realization that one cannot possibly know everything. In his revolutionary book Good to Great, Jim Collins states that a wise leader is intentionally surrounded by people who have complementary skills. The most successful leaders look for ways to empower those around them for the ultimate best of the whole organization or team.
Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. - John F. Kennedy
A teachable person can:
Receive constructive criticism without defensiveness.
Acknowledge and own mistakes without excuses or self-justification.
Ask clarifying questions, seeking to understand others’ points of view.
Empower others to excel in areas that complement their weaker areas.
Seek guidance from more seasoned, experienced people.
Engage in learning opportunities – realizing there’s always more to learn to sharpen their skill set.
Open themselves to thoughts, history, or experiences that will challenge their existing perceptions, practices, or prejudices.
Being teachable breeds faster paths to success. If you have a teachable mentality, then everyone has something to offer you. Keep an open mind, speak less, and listen more.
Let’s all learn something new today. Be teachable.
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