“Each one, reach one. Each one, teach one. Until all are taught.”
“Each One, Teach One” is a proverb that originated in the U.S. during slavery times. Slaves were denied an education so when one slave learned to read or write, it became their duty to teach someone else. The proverb has been adopted over the years and is a useful reminder that we should help others around us.
The Power of “Each One, Teach One”
We have all been new in a position. Recall that feeling of awkwardness when you were still learning the ropes, attending new employee orientation and taking on a new role. There’s a feeling of temporary incompetence when you’re constantly asking questions, shadowing someone and second-guessing your own decisions.
No matter how well we do in our career, we must recognize that we did not accomplish it alone. Throughout our climb along the career ladder, we’ve all faced obstacles that we could not or did not handle alone. People have provided guidance, insight, advice and recommendations that helped us on our climb to the top. We have a responsibility to teach those who are less experienced than us, since someone once took a chance on us.
Look for small ways to make a difference
Find a way to use your skillset to help others. Help can come in many forms and doesn’t require a formal mentoring agreement. It doesn’t even require a lot of time. It can be as simple as:
- Helping someone polish their resume
- Giving someone career advice over a cup of coffee
- Spending 10 minutes helping a coworker struggling with something you’re good at
- Giving a coworker advice on their upcoming presentation
You do not need to be a master to help
Often, I hear that people can’t teach a topic because they haven’t mastered it themselves. While that may be the case, there are others, maybe even those immediately around you, who can benefit from the knowledge you have today. Instead of teaching, think of it as sharing what you know. For example, if you have intermediate skills in Excel, help a beginner or someone that has stayed away from Excel by sharing your knowledge to date.
Teaching others builds your own skills
Doing something yourself and teaching it to someone are two different skill sets. By teaching others, you are reinforcing your current abilities and showing others that you care about the collective group. During the process, you also learn some of the gaps in your own knowledge, since teaching something requires a different understanding of a skill than simply doing it.
Pass on the habit of teaching
Don’t stop at just one. Make it a point to teach multiple topics in multiple settings, from a one-on-one session to informal group sessions like a “Lunch and Learn.” With enough practice, this type of behavior tends to spread in an organization, collectively lifting everyone up together through the sharing of ideas and knowledge.
The concept of “Each One, Teach One” is that we must teach others while we are still learning ourselves. It is the mindset of helping others that helps not only someone else, but also helps ourselves and creates a positive culture within an organization.
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Fredy Diaz is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.