I recently trained a small group of leaders; I’ll call them the McTigue leaders. During the training something interesting emerged; some leaders were not connecting with their team. One leader Tracy, gave verbal step by step instructions for a project to be completed in 30 minutes, the other leader Kelsea, responded to the instructions and submitted the project on time. However, during the discussion something interesting surfaced; a variance in learning styles.
What are learning styles A description of how people collect, sort, understand, organize, and develop decisions. There are a number of learning styles however, we will focus on three styles, visual, auditory, and kinesthetic or kinetic; VAK. According to a study conducted by Social Science Research Network, 65% of the population have a visual learning style, 30% have an auditory learning style, and 5% of the population have a kinesthetic learning style.
Identifying learning Styles
Identifying another person’s learning style requires listening to the words the other person communicates. Let me explain by using the example of Kelsea, Tracy, and Joel.
When Kelsea says, “I cannot see what you are saying!”, she is really saying she has a visual learning style. Kelsea uses the word “see”, which implies she is a visual learner. However, when you as the leader paint a vivid verbal picture, Kelsea will grasp the concept quicker. However, when there is a complex project to be completed, adding a visual aid in the form of a chart, graph, or map will make the connection to the instructions easier.
When Tracy says, “Let me repeat this, I want to make sure I understand!”, she is really saying she has an auditory learning style. When Tracy asks questions, wants to repeat something, say’s “sounds great!” or the directions resonate with her, she is able to identify solid concepts in her mind.
Another leader, Joel, has a kinetic learning style, he learns though doing; a hands-on approach or direct interaction. Joel learns best by physical action; this gives him the ability to see and touch all the components of the project through completion.
The Visual Learning Style Leader
Kelsea is very good with detail-oriented projects due to her recall of images and three to four-dimensional thinking. Once she sees what needs to be accomplished, she is able to recall stored images in her mind.
The Auditory Learning Style Leader
Tracy is very good at listening to project details due to her innate ability to connect specific points. Her keen sense of listening helps her retain verbal communication. She can retain and repeat facts of her project and will ask clarifying questions to ensure she has the details she needs.
The Kinetic Learning Style Leader
Joel is very good with hands-on projects; his hand-eye coordination and feeling of connection to the project helps him through completion. If the project requires team building activities, his active participation helps him increase his knowledge, skills, and abilities to enhance project goals.
Leaders, learn best practices for connecting with your teams learning styles
Best practices are procedures that are accepted or recommended as being the most effective for engaging people. Best practices support your team while you provide clear direction, and gives your team opportunities to use their knowledge, skills, and abilities. Best practices motivate team members to share ideas and get involved in decisions.
A leaders communication for visual team members can be mixed with something they can see. If you use a PowerPoint presentation, a PowerPoint with graphs and images would greatly help them receive the information and remember it later.
Let’s go back to our three team members mentioned above. Kelsea, a visual also prefers written directions and outlines. As Kelsea’s leader, color is another great communication tool. When organizing information using color codes, keep codes consistent. Another valuable tool for Kelsea is TPS (Think, Pair, Share). Using TPS offers her the opportunity to first think about the project being presented, then pair up with someone to brainstorm and get a different perspective, and then share ideas.
A leaders communication for auditory team members is verbal. Tracy is better at receiving information via training and lectures or podcasts. She would rather hear instructions rather that reading them. Tracy is not a note taker, rather, she will repeat the specifics or ask clarifying questions.
Auditory team members like it when you ask questions where they can give their verbal response. They also like to engage in small group conversations therefore, it is important for you, their leader, to include small group talks. Another aspect to include is a verbal summary at the beginning and end of the project to be discussed. Finally, include the TPS, which allows auditory team members the opportunity to first think about the project being presented, then pair up with someone to brainstorm and get a different perspective, and then share ideas.
For the kinetic team member such as Joel, he does best when he can physically get his hands on something or move in some way. He is a doodler, unlike his Kelsea or Tracy. Mixing up the structure of your communication by breaking the team up in different group activities helps keep him engaged by the physical movement.
A leaders communication for the kinetic learner is to consider concepts such as the use of games or projects to build a connection and rapport. When breaking teams up into groups where large 3D post-it notes are used, the kinetic learner will prefer to write on the 3D post-it note. Finally, role play activities help reinforce information.
For example, let’s say that once the simulated project is complete, it has to be presented to the director for funds to be transferred into the budget to execute the project. Have your team members role-play how they will present the project to the director. Not only does this engage team members, it creates buy-in into bringing this project into fruition.
Leaders, prevent frustration by tailoring your communication to address all learning styles
Emphasize the pertinence of your communication, instructions, directions, new knowledge, and or skills. The best way to do this is to communicate practical examples; practice activities and or role play, which will help your team apply new information. Keep your team actively involved by communicating materials they are familiar with and make information application-driven for immediate use.
Adults have a low tolerance for sitting and listening. It is always helpful to recall what it is like for you to sit through a long meeting or training. After communicating and identifying a major point, ask your team to think how the points relate to them and their department or situation.
List of presentation methods for leaders
When communicating new knowledge or skills, use an assortment of methods to vary the presentation of information; this variety helps you connect with the different learning styles of your team and prevents frustration. A few methods you can use include:
- Use visual aids
- Encourage questions and provide answers
- Encourage group discussion
- Use brainstorming
- Include written participation
- Use role-plays or simulations
- Illustrate with a case study or practical examples
- Structure a discussion to solve a problem
Visit teachingadults-whattrainersneedtoknow.pdf for the complete list of methods.
Encourage your team to share ideas, their ideas provide valuable feedback. It is also important for you as a leader to give feedback to your team. Feedback lets your team members know how they are doing.
As a leader, tailor your communications and be prepared to integrate optional activities and strategies to connect with your team. Include lots of visual aids for visual styles. Instructions will address the auditory style needs. And, hands-on training accommodates kinetic style needs.
Putting it all together
Learning best practices for connecting with your teams prevents frustration when you tailor your communication helps team member learning styles. Identifying another person’s learning style requires listening to the words the other person communicates. When leaders communicate in team members learning style rapport increases.
Mixing up the structure of your communication by breaking the team up in different group activities helps keep them engaged. When communicating new knowledge or skills, use an assortment of methods to vary the presentation of information; this variety helps you connect with the different learning styles of your team and prevents frustration.
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Leaders are you connecting? We would love to hear your thoughts!