Imagine the ideal teacher. Someone who takes the time to first, demonstrate, how something should be done. Someone who then instructs you on the step-by-step process with which to achieve your goal. Someone who allows you to fail, but insists you learn from those failures. And, finally, someone who heaps praise on you for accomplishing the original objective.
Art Mooney is the ideal teacher. But, he doesn’t teach in a conventional classroom. Art instructs novices like me on the rudiments of ice, rock and mountain climbing in the Green and White Mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire, respectively.
I mention Art because I believe teaching and creating a learning environment in which risk and failure are allowed, is more critical than ever. Why? Because in these brutal economic times, everyone is afraid to think outside the box, take risky decisions or, god forbid, fail.
I consider myself something of a teacher. Along with Ed, Ted and other Peppercom leaders, I try to foster an environment in which failure is permitted. Like Art, I try to instruct others by showing them, step-by-step, how a goal can be accomplished. And, like Art, I try to never overreact to failure.
I believe the best clients are also great teachers. We’ve had the opportunity to work with many over the years who, as great teachers do, took pains to make sure we understood their business strategy, organizational DNA and subtle cultural nuances. They linked our success to theirs. Tom Martin of ITT and Richard Aldersea of Mercer Delta are two erstwhile client/teacher hybrids who come immediately to mind.
Like every other strategic communications firm, though, we’ve also had our share of absolutely awful teachers who were diametrically opposed to the Art Mooney School of Instruction. I recall one who, warning us about her boss, hissed, ‘You get one chance to fail with Beth. Only one.’ Another, more recent, client reminded me of a brutal school teacher in a Dickensian novel. He’d publicly berate team members if he felt they didn’t grasp something quickly enough. Other times, he’d let out long, exasperated sighs on conference calls when we took exception to something he said. Worst of all, he’d claim credit for our successes and throw us under the bus for our failures.
Great teachers can make or break a student, or a relationship. Art Mooney, Tom Martin and Richard Aldersea are three ‘teachers’ who infused passion into their instruction, created an atmosphere in which failure was not only permitted but embraced and, finally, energized ‘students’ like me who eventually became their brand ambassadors. Hey, who said life isn’t a circle?