Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Preschool
Business Productivity, preschool
When I started my career as a teacher of 4-year-olds, I didn’t know I had started on a career path that would result in managing Synergy in Hawaii, a technical consulting firm specializing in SharePoint and related technologies. As it turns out that first real job helped significantly in preparing me for my current role as a technical trainer, a solution provider and a manager. Here are the top 5 things working with 4-year-olds taught me.
- People learn by doing. Just as I needed to allow my curious 4-year-old kids the opportunity to explore and experience the world for themselves – whether it was digging in the sandbox or creating works of art with Play-Doh – I need to offer my technology students the opportunity for hands-on learning. As an instructor, it is my responsibility to provide a safe learning environment where students can try things out, make mistakes and learn technology concepts by seeing them in play.
- Perseverance is critical to success. I watched 4-year-olds build towers out of blocks that would tumble and fall. Each time blocks tumbled, the child would rebuild, and with each restart, the structures became more complex, more intricate and more durable. There will be obstacles in every project with moments when reaching the solution deliverables seems impossible. Additionally, there are different options for achieving technical solutions. Success happens through sustained effort with the freedom to explore a variety of options in order to achieve the preferred solution.
- Patience and understanding cannot be undervalued. We tend to have a natural insight that children require patience and understanding as they figure out the world. This is not so different in the professional realm. On-boarding staff will need time to grasp our corporate approach to projects and solution building. Customers will take time to grasp the value proposition of solutions with an upfront cost. In addition, the solutions themselves often don’t pan out as hoped for in the first iteration as limitations are found in areas we think should work easily. To succeed in this (or any other) business, we must be patient with the process and understand that the people we are working with are doing the best they can at the moment.
- Communication is key. As a preschool teacher, the phrase “use your words” came out of my mouth more times than I can count. I helped my kids learn to verbally share their thoughts and feelings while communicating my expectations of them. As a consultant, it is imperative that I help my customers verbalize their pain points and communicate their requirements. It is equally important that I communicate what is and is not “doable” or in scope in order to manage their expectations of the outcome.
- Plan, but be flexible. I never went into the classroom without a lesson plan that included learning objectives and activities to support those objectives. But some days, the kids just weren’t up to the activities I had planned. Maybe a thunderstorm the night before resulted in tired, restless children, or they just had too much energy to sit still and work on a focused project. Whatever the reason, I needed to adjust to the circumstances in order to keep them actively engaged. In technology, the project plan is every bit as important as the lesson plan, including the stated objectives and supporting activities. At the same time, if a key resource is called out on emergency leave or a technical issue prevents timely delivery of a particular part of the solution, I need to have the fluidity to readjust and continue to move forward on the project even if it means a divergence from the stated steps in the project plan.
Sometimes I miss hanging out with those 4-year-olds on the playground, but each day I am grateful for what they taught me and for the skills that I’ve carried into my role at Synergy.
Topic: Business Productivity