Teach to learn | Inquirer Business

Teach to learn

I am not a teacher like you,” says my friend Angie (not her real name), who heads a retail family business in Parañaque City. “I almost flunked literature in high school. You had to tutor me.”

“I am not asking you to teach Shakespeare to your employees, though he imparted much wisdom for businesses (see “Shakespeare on Passion and Grit,” March 29, 2019),” I say. “You are complaining about your vice president, Cora, fouling things up, so teach her what to do.”


“Cora is a certified public accountant, so she is supposed to know about investments,” says Angie. “That’s why we hired her. But she keeps on making mistakes.”

“To err is human,” I say, “as long as she does not keep on making the same mistakes. She is open to learning, isn’t she?”


“Cora seems nice, a bit shy,” Angie shouts. “But her incompetence is costing us money. I want to let her go, but my mother says that there is no guarantee that the next person we hire will better. I don’t know what schools teach these days. I am better at investing than she is, and I only have a degree in management, not in accounting.”

Experience matters

“Investments are in the field of finance, not accounting,” I say. “But instead of blaming the school, why don’t you show her what to do? It doesn’t matter if she has more degrees—apparently you are much more experienced in investing than she is.”

“I am not qualified to teach anyone,” says Angie. “Whatever I know I just learn about from seminars, books, investing. Right now I am studying Bitcoin.”

“You cannot afford to let Cora go, but she has to shape up,” I say. “You can pay for her to attend investment courses. But since you already know a lot, it is best if you allocate time to teach her. When you teach someone, you learn more thoroughly and more deeply. When I was tutoring you before, I was also learning the material better.”

Covey’s rules

In his last book, “Primary Greatness,” the late Stephen Covey, who wrote “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” says, “When you see yourself as a teacher, you take a far more responsible attitude toward learning. You are far more motivated to learn something when you know you are responsible to teach it. You see yourself not only as a listener and a learner, but also as a teacher and mentor. So you become a much better learner.”

Two months later, Angie says that Cora is improving. “She says she looks up to me. I can’t believe it, but we are bonding.”

“How does that make you feel?” I tease her.


“Weird,” Angie says, “but it is a nice feeling. I always felt insecure about my grades, so I never thought I could teach anyone.”

Covey again: “When you teach what you learn, you promote bonding in the relationship. People who have been influenced by great teachers tend to feel very close to them. The teacher [also] reciprocates when a student really cares about the material. When you teach something that you are learning, it lubricates the change and growth process for yourself. It makes change legitimate as you see yourself (and others see you) in a new light, and [if so], you experience more and faster growth. We both change and grow.”

Shared journey

“Aren’t you learning better, because both of you are working together?” I ask.

“Yes,” Angie says. “Cora is good in accounting. She was just too scared to ask for help with our portfolio before. Now we want to attend a digital currency webinar together.”

I let Covey have the last word: “Much of the money spent on training and development is wasted because participants come away with very little take-home value. Most learning evaporates overnight because few learners teach the material to [others]. Some people no longer expect that training will increase knowledge and skills, partly because they will never be accountable for sharing it.”

“After the webinar, discuss with each other what you heard so you can retain important concepts,” I say. “Share what you learned also with your team to truly cement learning.”

Queena N. Lee-Chua is on the Board of Directors of Ateneo’s Family Business Center. Get her print book “All in the Family Business” at Lazada or Shopee, or e-book at Amazon, Google Play, Apple iBooks. Contact the author at [email protected]

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