Teaching, Coaching and the Strategies Behind the Scenes

Recently, I was reading a wonderful article on Psychology Today, entitled “What All Teachers Should Learn from Jazz Band Teachers.” It caught my eye for many reasons, but primarily because I’ve been writing on the topic of coaching – and I found so many parallels in this article. William Klemm, the author of the article, is a professor of neuroscience at Texas A&M, and he was making several suggestions as to what we could emulate from jazz band teachers. The first statement he made that really resonated with me was: “Two things are essential in teaching, the professionalism of the teacher and the motivation of the students.”

I thought…how true is that to coaching? Managing? Leading? These two things matter in almost every context. He goes onto explain that it’s obvious that most jazz band teachers know what they are doing – but, even though most know what they are doing, not everyone does a good job teaching others how to play jazz. Only the best of the best jazz players go on to teach others how to become wonderful jazz players. The same is true in business. I would venture to say that nearly every leader knows what they need to do (only a handful are actually ignorant) – but it’s the SuperSTAR leaders that DO what they know.

Any leader can go to the bookstore and find dozens (thousands) of books on becoming a great leader – do you know why? Because it isn’t a secret. Everyone keeps looking for the quick fix – how to become real good, real fast. But, that’s the trick. It’s not about learning something you don’t know, it’s about applying what you do know. In the case of the jazz teachers, the really great teachers didn’t suddenly discover something they never knew before – no, no, no. They just managed to teach what they knew. The best teachers are creative with their knowledge. They don’t just regurgitate it – they engage their students by using unique teaching techniques. This isn’t to say that they know it all, but they know what they don’t know, they learn what they can, and they apply what they know.

As Klemm suggests in his article, good jazz teachers think of ways to make learning fun – they use specific factors to their advantage – he identifies these to be: emotion, personal investment, current ability, social context, competition, and rewards. Engage their emotions, discover what matters to them, capitalize on their strengths, engage their surroundings, and make it about becoming better to reap the rich rewards. This is the key!

So much of what he said is applicable to coaching, leading and managing others. Read his article, apply his principles and remember the truth of it all! Coaching, teaching, and leading well – aren’t easy. But, that’s the point. If these roles were a cinch, anybody and everybody would be great at it all. Do you want to become one among the best? What are you willing to do to get there?



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