“We all learn a little differently”

As leaders, we are often tasked with teaching others new tasks.  Or sometimes we facilitate the learning process by pairing new team members with buddies or trainers to learn.  I hear often from leaders that this process is a challenge.  The patience and frustrations that come along with the learning process can be tenuous.  The pain of coaching employees through mistakes causes some serious pain.  This is reason enough to invest in retaining the great talent we already have.

Learning about learning.  There are three (arguably four) primary learning styles that humans tend to have – visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.  Visual learners learn best by seeing, auditory learners learn by hearing and discussing, and kinesthetic learners learn best by doing.  Sometimes, we are evenly split across the learning styles, and sometimes we have a primary, and perhaps a strong secondary style.  The concept of learning styles is best illustrated through a story.

A leader I coached, Nycole, hired a new assistant.  The new assistant, like most enthusiastic beginners, was eager to learn, and wanted to know how to do things perfectly.   As a leader, Nycole first managed expectations with the new employee.  She communicated to her that she would likely make mistakes, and that is okay, and expected.  There will be some trial and error.  Nycole also gave her the time to breathe and realize on her own that she would not learn everything in one day.

Nycole knew that she, herself, was a very auditory learner, and learned best through discussion.  However, she quickly realized that the new assistant was not auditory.  She was able to provide an assessment to the new employee to learn how she learned, which indicated a strong primary visual learning style.  To flex to her style, Nycole paired her with visual trainers that also helped temper her strong perfectionist desire.

A few things Nycole did well, was that she paused to think about the employee’s learning style and her own, and set her up for success for a similar learning style trainer.  She also flexed her learning style to meet the employee’s learning style.  She then managed expectations with the employee up front by stating that there would be a learning process.  This naturally created a safe place for the new assistant to make mistakes, while maintaining the stability of the team.

Leaders that learn about their teams have better business results.

More on resources.  There are numerous learning styles assessments available complimentary online.  Here are a few I like:  Educational Planner, How to Study, and VARK.  The question that always gets me is – what do you do with directions?  Visual learners often read them detail by detail, auditory want to hear them said out loud and repeat them, and kinesthetic usually just begin following them or learning by trial and error.  It’s an easy shortcut to learn yours and your teams if nothing else.

How will you learn about your team?

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