Teaching the Smart vs. the Stupid LO13384

Benjamin B. Compton (bcompton@geocities.com)
Thu, 24 Apr 1997 16:15:10 -0700

Replying to LO13364 --

Tony wrote:

> Ben expressed joy in teaching smart people and frustration in "teaching
> stupid and/or lazy people".
> Could we clarify what the problem is? Is the problem that some people are
> stupid and/or lazy or are some people just disinterested in what others want
> them to learn?

Good questions. A little context is needed to answer them. The last seven
months I was a Quality Manager at Novell. I lost that job during a
reorganization, and was asked to be a Mentor for a team of eight technical
support engineers.

I took the job because no one in the company has ever out performed me. I
reasoned I could help these eight people radically increase their
performance (as I don't think it's that difficult to perform at a high

On my whiteboard in my office are six steps that I feel lead to high

1. Act as though you're the President & CEO of your own career
2. Theory is the foundation
3. Think systemically
4. Pay attention to linguistic patterns
5. Practice
6. Learn concepts, not facts

I could expound on each one of these, but that's not the point. The bottom
line is that the people I Mentor for don't care about learning. They
simply want me, as a mentor, to feed them the answers to every question.
They have no desire to dig for an answer. I don't know if it's that
they're stupid and/or lazy, but I do know that when I lead them in a
direction that requires learning they get pissed off, send a nasty message
to their manager, who then stops by my office and craps all over me.

I have never said anything about "learning" to these people. I have never
mentioned the words "learning organization." I have never told them I have
the best performance record across the entire organization. I simply ask
a lot of questions, and when they realize those questions are going to
require learning they panic.

It's an interesting problem, because as far as I know I can't learn for
anyone else. I can only learn for myself. I can make available the stuff I
learn, but how that knowledge is used is out of my control.

>From my conversations with these eight people it seems that they're just
working 8 - 5 so they can get drunk on the weekend, or spend their weekend
golfing. They're not interested in building a meaningful career, they
don't care whether they develop new skills. It leaves me bewildered. I
don't care if they learn what I want them to learn; all I care about is
that they learn to do their job better.

Working with people like this is a very draining experience. I give myself
to them all day, and go home empty. And I do it day in and day out. I
really hate my job. It's a chore to get up and go to work in the morning.
It's not worth the money. I want to work with people who want to learn,
who want to make a difference, who want to achieve something meaningful.
Hence my question. . .

Ben Compton
"Friends are the ornaments of life."
E-Mail: bcompton@geocities.com
Phone:  (801) 222-6178
Fax:    (801) 222-6993
Web:    http://www.e-ad.com/ben/BEN.HTM

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>