There is a time to teach and a time to refrain from teaching.

As a leader, as a business owner deeply committed to earning a principled profit and sustaining a customer-oriented company culture always striving to improve, I’m forever presented with “teaching opportunities.”

Others might think of these as mistakes or mini-failures or even major failures. I prefer to think of them as teaching opportunities. It’s a great way to reframe to keep your emotional balance. Yet the heat of the moment is often the worst time to teach! Emotions often are running high, the people involved are often too emotionally invested in the situation to sit back and appraise their actions and motivations in a fully rational way.

At these times, attempts to teach are often useless at best, and at worst can backfire via resentment or escalation. One could end up teaching the wrong lesson (take no risk/initiative) or spur “malicious micro compliance” in the future. (See Covey/prior postings on the language of logic and the language of emotion being as English is to French. Also see ethos, pathos, logos.)

If the lesson to be learned is important, as a leader, then, it is important enough for me to be willing to wait for the right moment. That moment when the person is more open to learning, when the heat has cooled off the situation, when perspective is regained. And if the lesson is not important enough for me to be willing to wait, probably it is not important enough that I should attempt to deliver it immediately, at such a potentially explosive, inopportune time.

P.S.: The more mature the person, the stronger the relationship, the more prior effort that has gone into agreeing upon mutual goals and values, the greater the ability to deal with “hot” issues real time.