Do you create teachable moments?
HR Business Partner

Written by Marnie Brokenshire

September 17, 2022

Leaders who create teachable moments, consistently investing in the development of people, are the kind of leaders people want to follow.


Gallup’s 2022 “State of the Global Workplace” Report states that Employee Engagement in Australia is at an all time low at 17%.  According to a 2019 LinkedIn study, 94% of employees said they would stay with their employer if it invested in their development.

With record low engagement scores, many industries working to capacity, resourcing and retention challenges, there has never been a greater need for Leaders to nurture their talent.

The most effective way of nurturing talent and meeting learning and development needs is not in the form of formal education and online courses.  This should only represent 10% of any learning and development strategy.  Research has long held that the rubber hits the road when we embrace the fact that 70% of what we learn we learn by doing, “on the job”, and the richness of this learning comes from leaders who are purposeful teachers.

With record low engagement, many industries working to capacity, resourcing and retention challenges, there has never been a greater need for Leaders to nuture talent.

Sydney Finkelstein, a management professor at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, has studied world-class leaders for more than a decade. He found that they make a point of personally imparting memorable lessons that fall into three categories: pointers on professionalism, technical knowledge and skills, and broader life lessons.  You can read his findings in an HBR article here.

Build teachable moments into your regime.

When I coach leaders who are struggling to meet learning and development needs, I often ask when is the last time they imparted wisdom or shared one of their own learnings, or left a meeting and used their own insights to teach others.  Many either can’t recall or don’t really do it.  Creating teachable moments requires a mindset, a purposeful intent.  Here are 4 quick tips:

1. Think like a teacher

When you find yourself working on something, or exposed to something, anything, think “how can this information help others”, “how can I use this experience to develop someone else”, “what ‘curriculum’ could I develop that will impart wisdom and create a teachable moment for people in my team?  Have a change of mindset to the experiences you are exposed to and turn them into teaching moments.  Make it part of your mandate, your job description as a leader, to be a teacher.

2. Choose your environment

Creating teaching moments outside of the workplace “look and feel” like its a learning moment typically devoid of any unnecessary distraction.  It shows intent and purpose and will have a greater impact.  Go for a walk, talking and walking is powerful, or over a coffee.  I know a Head Chef of an award winning restaurant who takes his chefs to experience other foods and uses the experience as both a teaching moment, imparting wisdom, giving feedback, as well as innovating and checking out the competition.

3. Timing

Don’t wait for formal meetings or events to teach.  Be instinctual and intuitive.  If someone is finding something challenging, use the moment to create further context by teaching through storytelling.  Purposefully carve out time to create teaching moments and do it frequently. 

4. Don’t make it just about work

Share life lessons, impart information that will help people to grow and develop beyond just the job.  Share learnings from wins and fails, what you did well, could have done differently, why it mattered and what you learnt and how you applied the learnings.  Sports coaches are great at this, and always help their teams to keep their eye on the long term plan.

Good leaders will share information, provide instruction, direction and support when the need arises.

GREAT leaders CREATE opportunities to teach, instruct and guide and the teaching is enriched with imparting wisdom, context and life lessons.

People become more engaged when they have context. Include the what and the why things are happening as part of the teaching moment.  Providing context to key business decisions leads to a more meaningful connection to the vision and mission.  

An added benefit is when you create teachable moments you show people that their learning and development needs can be met beyond a classroom. As a leader, if you set your mind to purposefully creating teaching moments, learning and development opportunities will never be missed, people will recognise on the job learning as meaningful, and you will be creating a learning environment for mutual benefit.

This type of leadership behaviour nurtures talent and leads to improved outcomes.  Leaders who are only providing task instruction rather than meaningful learning through teaching, are not doing the entire job of a leader.


If you would like to discuss implementing strategies or initiatives that help to build your learning and teaching environment, reach out for a discussion. We will share some of our case studies.

As practitioners with years of in-house Corporate experience, we know the role of HR is hard, we also know that becoming strategic, influential and value add is a journey supported by mentoring. This is why we offer people strategy workshops and HR masterclasses facilitated by Marnie Brokenshire (30+ years corporate HR, 15 at C-Suite), and Nicole Mathers (10+ years corporate HR, 5 at senior management).  Reach out to see how we can support you.

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