Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Learning Styles

Last weeks post, "Stupid people" was a post written more out of frustration then anything. I received some great comments on it and I'm appreciative of them. I had this post in mind, as a follow up, when John left this great comment last week,

"I have also worked with stupid people, at least I thought I had. I learned early in my career that all those stupid people really aren't stupid; some are just different. I had one lad assigned to my platoon in the Army (many years ago now) that really just didn't get it. Fitz was always wrong. That is, wrong until the day I finally figured it out. Fitz wasn't wrong - he saw the world differently than the rest of us. I learned that when someone made what looked like a stupid mistake to stop a minute and ask myself: "How would Fitz have done this?" I learned to look at the world through other's eyes when the situation called for it - all became better after that"

John made a great point. Sometimes the way we are looking at things, doesn't mean that's the way they are. We all learn differently, we all respond to different stimuli, we all see things differently then others from time to time. Does this make us stupid? No, I don't think so. Can it be challenging, yes, indeed. How we handle each of our relationships is a true work of art. We can't package up a, "one size fits all" leadership or teaching approach. That's why there are thousands of different theories and books on how to lead and on how to teach others. 

To be good leaders, we have to understand how to adapt our style to that of how each of our people learn. I have found that most of the time, honey gets you more than vinegar, and that patience is the main ingredient required to teach others. 

What are some ways that we can help our people learn or get better at a procedure or task?
  • Communication: I've found times that when someone is not performing their job or task up to par it is usually due to the fact that the process wasn't properly communicated. Something got left out, or they where rushed through the process, etc..
  • Learning style: Talk with the person and find out what ways help them learn the easiest. Some people are more visual, or they learn easier by doing it themselves, or by watching someone else demonstrate the process. Whichever way works, doesn't matter, just as long as the end result is accomplished, and that is the person learns what they need to know to be proficient at their task.
  • step-by-step: Once the process or task has been properly communicated, I like to follow up by taking them through the process step-by-step, explaining the step and why it falls where it does. I also like to explain why the step impacts the rest of the process or which step has more effect on the rest.
  • Have the expert show them: Whoever on your team has mastered the process or task, have them go through it with the person that's having the trouble. This helps the "expert" learn how to teach and mentor, while it allows the person having the trouble see how you want it to be accomplished. 
  • Have someone with a different teaching style teach them: There have been times in my career when I've not been able to teach or communicate properly with someone when trying to help them learn or get better at a task. I've often went to one of my peers and asked them to try and help the person get better. Having a different person explain, show and teach can often times make a world of difference. 
  • Have them write up a Standard operating procedure (SOP): Another good way to help someone learn a process, is to have them write their own operating procedure for the task. It helps them slow down and really look at each step. Often times it causes them to concentrate on the associated documentation with a more, fine tooth comb, approach. It also let's you see what they know about what they are doing in each step or task. 
What are some of the ways that you have found that help other's learn a new task or process?


John Howard Hatfield said...

Gregory, I was thrilled to see my comment come back at me on your website - thanks for using the reference.

John Howard Hatfield

Voices of Leadership said...


Your welcome, thank you for posting that great comment. I was hoping that someone would bring up the fact that not everyone learns the same. It was a great way to introduce my post, so thanks.


Toni said...

John, I came across your website looking for a icon to represent diffferent learning styles. I found it here! I am a special education teacher working with students with moderate to severe disabilities. Talk about understanding that everyone has a learning style that is unique to them. Its our mission as leaders to find out what style it is and work with it to make progress.

elida said...

The awareness and understanding of learning styles is almost unheard of in my country. Most children are taught in a one size fits all education system which does little to motivate and cultivate self expression much less individualism. I am trying in my own way trying to educate parents that their children are not stupid, just need a different way to learn.

Alibra said...

I am a frustrated parent with the school system on how they teach our kids and writing them off as having learning disabilities. This piece was so helpful to me clearing the air. My child is just fine, i just need to find him a school that challenges his learning style.

Thank you Greg!

Barbie Chiu said...

There are certain point in our life that we encounter failure but it doesn't mean you will lose hope and give up everything but it only means that every failure there's an exchange and that is new beginning. Well, thank you for sharing your article and keep on posting. Visit my site too for more information.

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