Teaching me to drive probably contributed to the gray hair on my Dad's head.
Looking back, I'm not sure how I didn't either break him or break the clutch on the truck I learned on. Both ended up being pretty tough.
Dad resourced me with every driver's safety course, driver's ed class and safety pamphlet he could get his hands on. As an all-knowing 15 year old I didn't need any of that. I just needed to drive!
One day, in a moment of frustration at my lack of time behind the wheel, I asked him why he wasn't letting me drive more. He responded by asking how much of the driver's safety material he had given me had been read. Obviously, none of it, but that I didn't need to read; I needed to drive!
What he said next stayed with me. He said, "Son, my job isn't to let you drive, it's to teach you to drive. But I'm not going to waste my time teaching someone who doesn't think they have anything to learn."
Dad taught me how to be teachable before he taught me how to drive.
Teachability is an attitude that will never stop learning. Matt Keller says it is, "Being willing to relearn what we think we already know."
Early on as leaders many of us have it because we are new. However, the more successful you become, the less teachable you become.
Leaders discipline themselves to handle success successfully by maintaining a teachable spirit. We also develop keen eyes to spot other teachable leaders around us. Talent and past successes are great, but a teachable mindset makes a leader indispensable to your team.
Here are 5 ways someone visibly communicates their level of teachability.
They talk about what they are learning
Learners discuss what they are learning. It is a way to process and let the new information breathe. If you have a team member who only talks about the new TV shows they are watching or when someone's new album drops as opposed to the book they are reading or podcast they just listen to; you may have a team member who lacks teachability. Lazy people talk about the former; leaders talk about the latter. Verbalizing what you're learning conveys an intrinsic value to learn.
They take notes when they meet with you
Don't blow this off as "old school." If a person wants to learn, they take notes. Leaders are learners and learners keep good ledgers. Say that three time real fast. The leader who shows up to your meeting empty handed and never takes notes = Unteachable. Randomly I will have someone meet with me who shows up with nothing to write with; that person never gets my best energy, content or time. Opportunities to soak up new information are opportunities teachable leaders are prepared for.
They put down their phone
As much of a sign of respect as it is teachability, putting away your phone when meeting with someone communicates you value them as much as you do yourself. When someone in a meeting or learning environment can't stay off their phone it communicates 3 things: First, an arrogance of feeling they've arrived and don't need what they are sitting in. Next, they're bound to the tyranny of the urgent and have to respond to things immediately. Finally, they are all about the party instead of the process so they are bound to their phone from fear of missing out on anything. Teachable leaders are proficient with "airplane mode."
They sit under teaching
Do you have leaders who go to a conference just to "network" and don't sit in the sessions? Or who don't sit in a Sunday service to hear the message? (I know, ouch). Is it that they are so great they don't need to hear what's being taught? Of course not, but that's exactly how it appears. If someone opts out of sessions every time they're at a conference or sermons on Sunday, that's a huge red flag that they are not teachable.
They are friends with people in their field who know more than they do
Who leaders associate with determines teachable attitudes. A leader's best resource, and strongest sign of teachability, are the names and numbers in their cell phone. If someone is only friends with other leaders who look to them for advice or lead smaller organizations than they do, it's a sign of someone who needs to be a big fish in a small pond. If someone habitually connects with people who are ahead of them in some way, you have a teachable leader. The best leaders are friends with at least 3 other leaders who are 3 times their capacity.
Fortunately, I learned how to drive. While driving a vehicle has become second nature, staying teachable has not. The struggle to remain humble and teachable is a daily battle. But the fight is worth it. The most teachable leaders prove to be the more impactful leaders!
Kevin is a coach for couragetolead.com. He is also Executive Pastor at Stevens Creek Church in Augusta, Georgia, and the founder of LeadBravely.org. Kevin specializes in strategic thinking, financial health and developing teams. He lives in Augusta, GA, with his wife, Melissa, and two daughters.