3 min read

Teachable Moments: How To Make The Most of Them at Work

Teachable Moments: How To Make The Most of Them at Work

One of the most significant impacts a leader can have is passing on their strengths and knowledge to those around them. As Simon Sinek has said, “The greatest contribution of a leader is to make other leaders.” However, despite leaders' critical role in shaping their direct report's skills, abilities, and career trajectory, many in management are unsure or uncomfortable doing so. 

Researchers quantified the struggle many leaders face with developing their people through providing coaching and feedback in a survey of over 7,000 people leaders, where 44% agreed that they found delivering coaching and feedback stressful, with 21% saying they avoided it altogether for those reasons.

If you find yourself amongst the leaders who agree that providing coaching is a challenge or save all your feedback for an annual performance review, finding teachable moments may be what you need to break the cycle. In this article, we'll review what a teachable moment is, why they’re essential, and how to spot them and capitalize on them to provide your employees with the coaching and feedback they crave.


Table of Contents

  1. What is a teachable moment?
  2. Why are teachable moments important?
  3. How to spot teachable moments 


What Is A Teachable Moment?

A teachable moment in the workplace is defined as an informal opportunity to provide in-the-moment coaching and feedback to an employee based on a witnessed event. They are ideal learning opportunities as the leader seizes the chance to stop an activity to dialogue with an employee on a situation, answer questions, and provide insight.

What is a Teachable Moment at Work Niagara Institute (1)


Be a Better Coach With the Help of The Beginner's Guide to Coaching Employees.  >>


Why Are Teachable Moments Important?

Teachable moments are how individuals develop, learn new skills, and grow their abilities. Because teachable moments are unstructured and take place in real-time, they break down the typical defensiveness or trepidation individuals may have in a more structured feedback situation such as a review. When coaching and feedback happen frequently and alongside a real situation, individuals are more receptive and willing to apply what they have learned.

While you may think otherwise, individuals crave teachable moments where you provide real-time coaching and feedback. Here are six reasons why teachable moments are important and why you must incorporate them into your daily activities. 

  • 60% of employees agreed they want feedback daily or weekly. When the same question was asked to employees under 30, the number skyrocketed to 72%. - PwC
  • In a study of 65,000+ employees, it was uncovered that for those who received feedback on their strengths, the turnover rate was 14.9% lower than their peers who did not receive this feedback. - Gallup
  • 60% of employees reporting to a manager who is not a good coach think about quitting, versus 22% reporting to the best coaches. - Zenger | Folkman
  • Employees are 3.6 times more likely to strongly agree that they are motivated to do outstanding work when their manager provides daily (vs. annual) feedback. - Gallup
  • Nearly 25% of employees surveyed are unsatisfied with the frequency of feedback they receive, and 28% said that the little feedback they receive is too infrequent to help them improve their performance. - Officevibe
  • 79% of employees surveyed agreed that opportunities for growth are the top reason they stayed at an organization, with that number jumping to 90% for employees under 25. - Badgeville


How to Spot Teachable Moments

Teachable moments happen daily at work, though it's up to you to identify them, stop what you’re doing, and capitalize on them. Granted, once you make a conscious and consistent effort to do so, it will become second nature in time. To get started, here are a few common examples of teachable moments at work.

  • Struggling with a task
  • Conflict or disagreement
  • Client or stakeholder interaction
  • High-performance
  • Not meeting expectations
  • Improved results
  • Mistake or setback

How To Spot Teachable Moments at Work (1)


Struggling With a Task 

It goes without saying that when you see someone having a hard time with a task, step in and provide coaching and feedback to help them.


Conflict or disagreement

Workplace conflict and disagreements are going to happen. A teachable moment can be had with an employee to help them understand someone else’s perspective, bring awareness to their conflict style, and how a different approach could drive a better outcome.


Client or stakeholder interaction

Some of the greatest teachable moments happen after witnessing an employee interact with a client or senior leadership, as these are high-stakes situations. Having a post-mortem of the situation to discuss what worked and what didn’t can expose blindspots an individual did not know they had and encourage them to continue to apply the positive behaviors you witnessed.



When you and an employee witnessed a situation where someone excelled, such as another leader, a team member, or someone outside the organization, this is a golden teachable moment. Have a conversation anatomizing why their performance was spectacular and how they were able to make this achievement.


Not meeting expectations

Often, teachable moments can happen in your one-on-one meetings when discussing an outcome that did not meet expectations, and what if they had done differently may have led to a better result.


Improved results

Teachable moments are not only for corrective feedback and coaching; they can also be used for reinforcement, encouragement, and continued development. Use these moments to provide your kudos and discuss how they can use this momentum as a catalyst for future growth.


Mistake or setback

After a mistake or setback, having a teachable moment where you’re vulnerable in sharing your challenges and how you overcame them can be invaluable to an employee's development, resilience, and confidence.

Conclusion: Build Your Confidence in Capitalizing on Teachable Moments

With knowledge, practice, and experience, having teachable moments can become second nature to you and the employees you lead. If you want to develop your coaching and feedback skills, the Niagara Institute is here to help. We have several coaching and leadership programs that individuals can attend, or organizations can deliver for their leaders, as well as leadership coaching packages for individuals, teams, and management groups.

New call-to-action

How To Give Feedback to Employees, Peers, and Bosses (+Template)

6 min read

How To Give Feedback to Employees, Peers, and Bosses (+Template)

Whether you’re praising a peer for a job well done or guiding an employee on a project that’s faltering, feedback is how those around you learn and...

Read More
13 Ways to Help Employees with Self-Motivation at Work

5 min read

13 Ways to Help Employees with Self-Motivation at Work

Have you noticed the get-up and go has got up and went for one or many of your employees? If so, you’re not alone. Many leaders across all industries...

Read More
Positive vs. Negative Feedback at Work: What’s the Difference? (+Examples)

7 min read

Positive vs. Negative Feedback at Work: What’s the Difference? (+Examples)

When you’re at work, do you want to know where you stand with your boss, peers, or clients? Do you want to see whether you’re doing a good job, and...

Read More