Education Posts

The Teachable Heart

The Teachable Heart

By Flip Flippen

10 years ago


education, educators, learning, leadership, teachers, teaching,



I recently asked a group of school superintendents what they felt contributed to a person having a teachable heart. It seemed like a good question, since they are in the education business. What makes someone “teachable”? Of course, another word that works equally well is “coachable”.

Pride is the enemy of a teachable heart. You can’t be coachable if you know it all.

One thing I have learned over the years is that a coachable or teachable person is a person who does not think they know all the answers. It’s easy to pick them out in a group. They are the ones asking questions. Those who “know it all” are the ones pontificating and talking the most.

If we dig down into the heart of the matter, we will usually find that the ones talking and answering every question are the ones who feel they know more, have all the right answers, and are much smarter than the others in the room. I had the unfortunate experience at one time of being that person.

Ego and pride are not virtues! In fact, they are rude and disrespectful. I also had the great fortune of having a mentor who suggested that being quiet more and asking more questions was the better way to go. Of course, if I had not respected him so much, I probably would not have listened to him either.

Leaders should understand they do not know more than others. They do not have all the answers. They would do well to listen and learn from others. There is a key to being able to be a good listener: being a good learner. And the key to being a good learner is humility (thinking more of others than of yourself). Humility is a great virtue. Even if you know the answers and even if you are the smartest guy in the room, you will do well if you give others a chance to share, discuss and talk about what they think.

It’s difficult to be with those few educators who want to teach but don’t want to learn. It’s equally difficult to be with leaders who want to lead but don’t believe that they can be led. What is true for educators is equally true for all of us. If you want to be known as a great leader, then learn how to learn. Learn to quit speaking up all the time; learn how to ask far more questions than give answers; learn how to acknowledge the contributions of others and learn to appreciate the insights of others.

If you want to lead, you have to be a learner. To be a learner, you have to have humility.  Those that lead want to be sure that the ones following are doing so for more than a paycheck. Lead on!

Flip Flippen

Whether working with Olympic athletes, professional money managers, or military leaders, Flip Flippen’s mission is the same: “To build relationships and processes that bring out the best in people.” He has applied this goal with hundreds of thousands of individuals, providing executive development and organizational consulting in four sectors: education, corporate, sports, and government. With an emphasis on changing behaviors and attitudes that stand in the way of success, he has helped organizations – from small rural school districts to Fortune 500 companies – achieve dramatic improvement in performance, leadership, trust, and productivity. Flip is the founder and president of the Flippen Group, started in 1990, voted the number two company to work for in Texas by Texas Monthly magazine. Today, the Flippen Group is one of the largest educator training companies and one of the fastest-growing leadership development organizations in North America. Their breakthrough educational processes and curricula are in use at thousands of school districts and campuses nationwide.

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