Back to School: 7 Small Business Management Tips to Take from Teachers

Who was your favorite teacher growing up?

Mine was Mrs.France, my second grade teacher. Even though I was only six or seven years old, Mrs. France, along with the lessons she taught me, will forever be etched into my memory. Great teachers make lasting impressions, because they are able to engage students and get the best out of them.

When you think about it, teachers and small business managers aren’t all that different. The ones who succeed are those who know how to connect and engage in their own personal way. Both find ways to turn potential into reality.

Here are 7 small business management tips that we can all take from teachers.


Tip #1: Your authority works better when it’s not authoritarian


You can achieve collaboration and cooperation without wielding your power in a controlling manner.

Take a moment to think about how you interact with your staff. Do you lead more with your mouth or with your ears? If you’re like most bosses, you probably perform periodic employee reviews. But do you give your employees an opportunity to review your performance, to openly suggest ways you might lead better? As Mrs. France always said, “listen and learn.”


Tip #2: Believe anyone can learn and grow

Now this is a bit different because as a boss your “pupils” are at the stage where in most cases they should know better. And sometimes, to ensure a healthy, productive work environment, you just need to give someone the heave ho.

Teachers, on the other hand, can’t “fire” poorly performing students. So instead, they help them grow. And, you can’t help people grow unless you believe they can grow.

We all know that it costs a lot of money to hire and train new employees. Thinking like a teacher can help you create trusting relationships with your struggling “students.” And once you take time to learn what motivates someone from within, you can better connect work outcomes to intrinsic goals.

Think back to your favorite teacher. Did they believe in you? For employees and students alike, sometimes just knowing that someone believes in your ability to perform can make a massive difference.


Tip #3: You can share power without giving it up


Power is not a finite thing. But based on how many power struggles occur in the business world, it appears that many believe it is.

Asking for ideas or help with certain small business management challenges isn’t a sign of weakness, but of strength.


Tip #4: Positive framing works


Positive messages are a must for motivation. Discussing how a change in behavior will lead to goal achievement is a lot more effective than tying behaviors to negative consequences.

Saying “yes” also helps. The next time you need to say “no,” try thinking of a way you can say “yes” instead.

This next point may seem ridiculous but saying “please” and “thank you” cannot be overstated. Research shows that people who are thanked by authority figures are more likely to display self-confidence, cooperate and feel valued.


Tip #5: Help employees get started


The Zeigarnik Effect, developed by psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, states that once people start something, they tend to want to finish it. We all have those things we want to get done, and we know we’ll be much better off when they’re finished, but for one reason or another we refuse to get started.

Sometimes just getting disengaged employees started is enough to push them over the threshold to productivity. There are lots of reasons employees refuse to start. They may not have the know-how and are too embarrassed to ask. They may lack confidence in their ability to perform the task. They may undervalue the importance of the task. Whatever the reason, keep an eye out for roadblocks and offer help when necessary.


Tip #6: Create an atmosphere for achievement


In his book Drive, New York Times bestselling author Daniel Pink explains that when “baseline rewards” like fair grading, a caring teacher, engaging lessons and a clean classroom aren’t met, the student will focus on “the unfairness of her situation and the anxiety of her circumstance… You’ll get neither the predictability of extrinsic motivation nor the weirdness of intrinsic motivation. You’ll get very little motivation at all.”

It’s the same for employees. It’s incredibly tough to find motivation when the things are out of whack. How did your favorite teacher manage the classroom? Was it engaging and fair?


Tip #7: Teach life lessons


As a small business manager, you may feel that your employees have already learned – or will never learn – the life lessons they need to succeed.

And no employee ever asks for a life lesson, but that doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate a good one. Surely, you have some experience-based gems you can use when appropriate.

Growing up, we all heard about how things were going to be different when we entered the “real world.” And in most cases, they are. But to connect with employees and get the best out of them, it can help to think of your title as a teacher specializing in small business management.

For better teaching skills, keep learning. Subscribe to our blog, follow us on Twitter and circle us on Google+ to keep the content coming.  

Loading next article