Using Content as Guidance

Working at an Alphabet company has its perks. One of those perks is management training! And in both management and content strategy, we use content as guidance to help people reach their goals.

It’s funny to realize that my first role as a manager was in 2012. I remember asking my manager at the time for advice – books, webinars, etc. She wasn’t sure where to point me. The same thing happened in 2015. So now, after a decade in management roles, I’m thrilled to be told what to do.

It turns out “what to do” is mostly about not telling people what to do, but instead guiding them.

Teaching or facilitating

Many of my management courses advice the manager to stop trying to have all the answers. As someone with a Type-A personality, that’s really difficult. It feels so good to have someone as a question, and know the answer!

What feels even better is how people appreciate it. Many people want their manager to simply give them the answer. The problem is that this teaches them to keep asking, and it doesn’t build their ability to solve problems on their own.

Constructivist teaching practices

As I’ve mentioned before, my parents both worked in education. They each taught me about using content (well, their words) as guidance.

My mom simply acted: for example, she often told me to look words up in the Dictionary. When I complained, she told me her father did the same thing to her. And as much as I hated it, her words taught me how to use the Dictionary.

Now, as a manager, I don’t want my team to see me as the “mom” who should give the answers. I want them to see me as a colleague and resource – and I want them to learn to use their own tools (or Dictionaries).

While my mother taught me through her actions, my father taught me as well. His speciality was constructivism: the idea that students learn best through projects. He gave teachers open-ended questions to engage students and help students learn. Now I see those same questions coming up in management training. Rather than giving an answer, I should be asking my team how they would approach the problem. I can guide them to find the answers themselves.

Using content as guidance

This feels a lot like creating good content. Let’s compare this situation to an app. If my mom gave me the immediate answer, the content would be like an article, providing information. Instead, she gave me a tool. Her content was guidance for me, which helped me grow as a person.

“Guidance” is often a good principle for content strategy. We guide end-users through valuable content and through intuitive design. By practicing my own ability to be a constructivist teacher, a facilitator, or a good manager, I will also be improving my abilities as a content strategist.

As a manager, I want to help my team grow. As a content strategist, I want my end-users to grow. My words or my content should be guidance to help them succeed.

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