Learning Styles and How They Affect Your Team
One of our most important job as leaders is to train and educate the members of our team. This is challenging because everyone learns differently. Today we’re going to talk about the seven different learning styles and how you can apply your understanding of them to help your team grow to their full potential.

Learning Styles and How They Affect Your Team

One of our most important job as leaders is to train and educate the members of our team. This is challenging because everyone learns differently. Today we’re going to talk about the seven different learning styles and how you can apply your understanding of them to help your team grow to their full potential.

The Seven Learning Styles

The first of the seven learning styles is visual learning. Visual learners have a preference for using images, pictures, colors, and maps to organize information and communicate with others. They love to use whiteboards or other tools that let them explore their thoughts visually. You will hear them say things like, “Let’s look at it differently, I can’t quite picture it or Let’s draw a diagram or map.” Ways you can help visual learners are by Using color, layout, and spatial organization when talking with them, and using ‘visual words’ like see, picture, perspective, visual, and map.

Aural learners like to work with sound and music and have a good sense of pitch and rhythm. This can be helpful because music evokes strong emotions and aural learners can be tuned into the emotions of others. Aural learners often say things like “That sounds about right, That rings a bell or That’s music to my ears.” You can help aural learners by using sound, rhyme, and music when training them, Using sound recordings to provide a background and help them visualize and when creating mnemonics or acrostics, make the most of rhythm and rhyme, or set them to a jingle or part of a song.

Verbal learners find it easy to express themselves, both in writing and verbally. They enjoy playing on the meaning or sound of words, such as in tongue twisters, rhymes, limericks and the like. They know the meaning of many words, and regularly make an effort to find the meaning of new words. Phrases that verbal learners often say are, “Tell me word for word, The word you’re looking for is and Let me spell it out for you.” To reach verbal learners effectively, incorporate more speaking and writing in techniques. Encourage them to talk themselves through procedures or use recordings of content for repetition. Use rhyme and rhythm in your assertions where you can, and be sure to read important ones aloud. Mnemonics, acronyms and Scripting are powerful tools for verbal learners.

Physical learners use their body and sense of touch to learn about the world. They like sports and exercise, and other physical activities such as gardening or woodworking. Physical learners typically use larger hand gestures and other body language to communicate. They might use phrases like, “That feels right to me, That doesn’t sit right with me or My gut is telling me’”. To reach physical learners, Use physical objects as much as possible and Use role-playing to practice skills and behaviors.

Logical learners like using their brain for logical and mathematical reasoning. They recognize patterns easily, as well as connections between seemingly meaningless content. Logical learners typically work through problems and issues in a systematic way, and like to create procedures for future use. You might hear a logical learner say, “That’s logical, Follow the process, or There’s no pattern to this”. You can help logical learners by understanding the links between parts of a system.

Social Learners typically prefer learning in groups or to spend one-on-one time with a teacher. They heighten learning by bouncing thoughts off other people and listening to how they respond. Social learners often say things like, “Let’s work together on this.” “Let’s pull some people together to discuss.” Or, “Let’s explore our options.” Leaders can help these people learn by letting them work with others. Using tools like role-playing, mind maps and system diagrams are also useful.

Solitary learners prefer to work on problems by retreating to somewhere quiet and working through possible solutions. Sometimes they spend too much time trying to solve a problem by themselves when they could be more successful by talking to others. Solitary learners often say things like, “I’d like some time to think it over.” Or, “I’ll get back to you on that.”  You can help solitary learners by helping them set clear goals and objectives. Help guide them to align those goals with their values and personal beliefs.

Applying Learning Styles

A potential pitfall is making judgements about people based on their learning styles. It’s important not to assume that someone won’t be good at a certain task solely because of their learning style. We shouldn’t assume someone won’t be good at creating visuals for a presentation because they aren’t a visual learner. It is also dangerous to let others use their learning style as a crutch to avoid new situations. “I can’t take notes because I’m not verbal learner,” is not a true application of these learning styles.

The reality is that most people use a combination of the learning styles. Combining elements of each style can be helpful when working with a group of people. Pay attention to the styles that others use and to incorporate appropriate elements of those styles to communicate effectively. We got our information for this post from Learning Styles Online. Go check them out if you’d like to learn more. You can even take an assessment on their site to figure out what your own learning style is.

September is a great time to take ourselves back to school to re-evaluate what we’ve learned so far this year and what new things we’d like to learn.

Back to School Challenge

September has arrived! I can’t  believe that fall is right around the corner. The days will start getting shorter and the temperatures will start getting cooler before we know it. I always think about going back to school when this time of year comes around. September is a great time to take ourselves back to school to evaluate what we’ve learned this year and what new things we’d like to learn.

The Back to School Challenge

This month’s Back to School challenge has 2 parts:

First, make a list of all of the lessons we’ve learned over the past 8 months. They don’t need to be huge, life changing ideas. They could be little things we learned to do a little better at work or how we learned to deal with people better.

Next, make a list of the things we would like to learn before the year is out. They could be new skills,  or something we’ve already learned that we want to learn about more. Maybe we take a training class to get certified in an area of expertise that will help advance our careers. It’s okay if you only have one thing, or if you have a whole bunch, but we’ll come back to these lists later in the month.

At Evil Genius Leadership we believe that leadership isn’t just a set of skills to acquire or workshops to take. Leadership is a discipline and lifelong practice that requires continuous study and reflection. Truly great leaders treat study leadership and are always looking for new things to learn, new ideas to explore and new perspectives to view the world through. By recognizing the things we’ve learned this year and setting some goals to learn new things before the year is out, we follow in this great tradition of leadership.

One of the most important responsibilities we have as leaders is to develop other leaders who can someday take our place and grow to achieve their own successes. While it doesn't usually come with increased pay or benefits, developing leaders on our team can be one of the most personally rewarding endeavors we can undertake. To effectively develop our team members into strong leaders we need to be genuinely and authentically invested in their future career success as well as the short-term benefits that they can bring to our team.

Developing Leaders on Your Team

One of the most important responsibilities we have as leaders is to develop other leaders who can someday take our place and grow to achieve their own successes. While it doesn’t usually come with increased pay or benefits, developing leaders on our team can be one of the most personally rewarding endeavors we can undertake.  To effectively develop our team members into strong leaders we need to be genuinely and authentically invested in their future career success as well as the short-term benefits that they can bring to our team.

The Challenges of Developing Leaders

Helping people on our team grow into strong leaders for the future comes with it’s own set of challenges and hurdles. The first is that most companies and organizations don’t have a great deal of money dedicated for leadership development and training at all levels. Many companies focus on spending resources to improve leadership at the highest levels, but it often doesn’t make it’s way down to the front lines where it is needed most. Consistent leadership development activities can fall by the wayside when unexpected high-priority tasks pop up. It can also be difficult to demonstrate to the members of our team exactly why having solid leadership skills benefits them as individuals as well as advances the mission of our team. All three of these challenges can derail even the most dedicated leader from fully realizing their goal to turn their team into great leaders. It’s important that we commit ourselves through assigning the resources we do have and making the time necessary to help the individuals on our team grow into strong leaders that will carry our organization into the future.

Preparation, training, and skill will all serve us well as we tackle our next big crisis, but the one key factor that impacts the ability to successfully navigate a crisis is taking accountability early on and throughout the situation.

Taking Accountability: The Key to Leading Through a Crisis

 

As much as we all try to plan well to avoid crisis situations, it is inevitable that we will face a crisis sometime in our careers as leaders. Preparation, training, and skill will all serve us well as we tackle our next big crisis, but the one key factor that impacts the ability to successfully navigate a crisis is taking accountability early on and throughout the situation.

4 Tips for Taking Accountability in a Crisis

The most important step for taking accountability is to admit there is a problem in the first place. Accepting this truth is necessary and it’s surprising how many situations spiral out of control because we can’t admit to ourselves that something is wrong. After thoroughly investigating root causes of the problem, it’s important to take accountability for any role we and our team might have had in causing the crisis. It’s very difficult to implement a solution if we haven’t addressed any procedural or team issues that might be barriers to implementation. Once the solution has been determined, we need to continue to hold ourselves and any others accountable to perform their role in the solution until the crisis is over. Finally, taking accountability to communicate the problem and solution to any key stakeholders is important throughout the crisis situation.

Making a commitment to continuous self-improvement is one of the biggest keys to becoming a great leader. Great leaders treat leadership as a discipline to be studied and reflected upon throughout their careers and lives. In the past we’ve discussed some of the more personal aspects of your leadership philosophy and style such as vision, core values and key leadership traits, but skills are little more straightforward and we can focus on some practical ways to grow your skills to become a stronger leader. The approach you take to developing skills is as unique as you are and should be based on your goals as well as the resources you have available.

Developing Skills – 5 Ways You can Level Up!

Making a commitment to continuous self-improvement is one of the biggest keys to becoming a great leader. Great leaders treat leadership as a discipline to be studied and reflected upon throughout their careers and lives. In the past we’ve discussed some of the more personal aspects of your leadership philosophy and style such as vision, core values and key leadership traits, but skills are little more straightforward and we can focus on some practical ways to grow your skills to become a stronger leader.

The approach you take to developing skills is as unique as you are and should be based on your goals as well as the resources you have available. Also, factor in your level of dedication and how important acquiring or improving this skill is to you. If you are just looking for an introduction to the skill or to just get the big basic concepts, enrolling in an executive MBA program or hiring a coach for a year may not be the right choice for you, but finding a free online course or even buying a video program or e-book might get you exactly what you need. If your financial outlay outweighs your level of commitment to improving your skills, you’re just going to end up with less cash and extremely frustrated.

Higher Education

Going back to school for more formal education can be a great way to improve your knowledge and skills, provided you’re doing it for the right reasons. School can be an expensive option for developing skills but many schools have scholarship and grant opportunities as well as those from the government, so there’s almost always a way to get a least a portion of your tuition paid for. I chose to go back to school to get an MBA because I felt I had a lot of practical leadership experience that was applicable to military and government environments, but wanted to get a stronger foundation about leadership and management in the corporate world as well as getting a better handle on the financial aspects of running a business.

Developing Skills though Online Sources

No matter what skill you’re looking to develop, chances are someone, somewhere has put together some online content that can get you started on the path to building that skill. As a tech-savvy reader you probably already know that there are all kinds of YouTube videos that give step by step instructions on how to do any given project. These can be a great place to start developing skills, especially if you have a task you need to get done now and need to learn a new skill as you go. Podcasts are also a great way to learn a new skill, especially for “soft skills” that require changing a mindset as well as learning new techniques. A big advantage of podcasts is that you can listen and still absorb the content while doing something else. I’m not great at multitasking most things, but listening to podcasts while I work out or while I’m driving has been a very effective way for me to build my own skills while making effective use of my time. Another great advantage of all of this online content is that it is 100% free in most cases. Many volunteer groups, professional associations, schools and universities are even offering some of their courses for free if you are looking for a little more structure in your training.

Workshops and Coaching

Just like with online courses, regardless of what you want to learn, there is someone who offers some kind of workshop or individual coaching to help you get there. These can get pricey, getting into the hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars, so I would recommend that you try some of the online approaches to developing skills described above first. Once you reach the point where you feel like you’ve learned all you can learn on your own from those methods, then look into some paid workshops or coaching. The advantage will be that you will have a pretty solid foundation in the skill to begin with and you can work with your coach or workshop facilitator to spend time on the really advanced topics that will help you level up in that skill.

Workplace Training

Many employers set aside money from their budget to provide training to their employees. If you’re looking to grow some of your skills and have this option available to you, take advantage of it. There may be conditions that your employer places on this training, so be sure to be clear on what those conditions are before you sign on the dotted line for it, but letting your employer pay for your training is a great option, especially because your employer will directly reap the benefits of your newly upgraded skills.

If you’re a small business owner and don’t have money in the budget for developing skills, fear not, you can get some amazing training from other sources such as the Small Business Administration and the local Small Business Development Center in your community. Much of this training is free or low-cost to small business owners and is just as good, if not better, than training that you might pay someone else for.

Volunteering and Community Involvement

Finally, if you’re working on a skill where you feel like you need to get some guidance and feedback from others around you, getting involved in a group in your community can accelerate your leadership skills development. There are groups that are dedicated to helping people improve a certain skill, like Toastmasters, which is a great way to improve your public speaking in a welcoming environment with people who will give you honest and effective feedback. If you want to build some of your organizational, management or people skills, joining a volunteer group in your community can give you some opportunities to work with people on projects that you might not get on your own, plus you’ll feel pretty good about yourself for giving something back to your community.

As you can see there are a lot of options to developing skills you feel like you need to grow as a leader. The method you choose can be based on a lot of factors such as the resources you have available, the time commitment you’re willing to put in and how quickly you feel like you need to develop the skill.

How you can do personal development of your skills and abilities for low or no cost

Personal Development – Get a Lot Without Spending a Lot!

In our post “What is Your Personal Development Plan” we talked about the importance of having a Personal Development Plan that highlights the skills and capabilities you feel you need to achieve your big goals and dreams. In addition to talking about the skill set you need, the plan should also discuss which areas you feel that you are already strong in and which areas could use some improvement. In order to improve your capabilities you’ll need to invest in them, whether that is with money, time or both. In a lot of cases you may be able to get your employer to pay for training that you need, or if you have some money saved up you might be able to pay for training on your own. If those options aren’t available to you there are still ways you can invest in your personal development without spending a lot of money.

To the Internet!

There are a ton of free resources on the internet that are just waiting for you to find them. Just type what you’re looking for into your favorite search engine and see what pops up. It may take looking through a few links to find a good match, but you’ll at least get some leads on where to head next. I’ve been wanting to improve my writing skills (feedback welcome in the comments!). In the process of researching another topic I came across a free 30 day writing course that I’m currently working on. This course is self-evaluated, but I find it helpful being given a writing prompt daily that forces me to think about a topic I wouldn’t ordinarily consider and tell a compelling story about it. I feel like I’ve already gotten a great deal of benefit just from trying to write every day and didn’t have to spend a penny on it.

Get Social!

One of the best ways you can learn and grow is by talking with others. There are thousands of twitter chats and online hangouts where you can take a look at what people are saying about the skills you want to learn. Don’t be afraid to jump in on the conversation! Chatting with people who are already skilled at something is a great way to see the best practices for a particular skill or topic. A side benefit is that getting involved in the online community is also a great way to build your network!

Listen Up!

Check out some podcasts on topics that you want to develop your skills in. Just like the online chats there is a podcast for almost any subject you can think of and many are free. A great advantage of podcasts is you can listen to them in the car multitask at work. I have several podcasts that I listen to at the gym because for some reason working out puts me in a relaxed mindset where I’m open to listening without trying to jump ahead to the speaker’s next point or conclusion.

The Traditional Approach

It may be a little old school, but there’s always your public library. This is another location where there are thousands of resources for your personal development available to you for free. All you have to do is return them on time. Next time there’s a book you want to read, but aren’t sure you want to spend the money to buy it, take a look at your local library to see if they have it!

Make the time!

Just as important as finding resources is to make the time commitment to doing your personal development. A free resource is absolutely no use to you if you just leave it sitting on the shelf. I recommend blocking out an hour a day, 3 or 4 days a week to get started. Put it on your calendar and stick to it. If circumstances force you to miss the time you set, don’t delete it off your calendar, move it to another block of white space on your calendar and stick to the new time (more on time management coming up in a future post).

Finally, don’t forget to keep working on the areas you are already strong in. Some skills are perishable over time and you can get rusty if you don’t exercise them regularly. Always keep a balance of working on areas you need a lot of work on and really refining the skills you are good at and taking them to the next level!

 

Tell us in the comments what the most important skill or capability you’d like to see the members of your team work on!

Photo Credit By Yinan Chen (www.goodfreephotos.com (gallery, image)) [see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons

What is Your Personal Development Plan?

By Marine Institute (Marine Institute) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Marine Institute (Marine Institute) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Today I was writing a letter of recommendation for someone who worked for me a while back. She is moving from one career to another but many of the skills are transferrable. She is formally educated for this new position, but as I wrote the letter, I found what was most significant in my recommendation were the areas in which she had not had formal training, but in some of those intangible areas like interpersonal relationships and critical thinking. It got me thinking about how we can all develop those types of skills even if they’re not part of our formal training or education.

Most of us are familiar with a one-size-fits-all corporate training plan or development plan that the organization has put together to guide our development. It may be tailored a little bit to each individual’s position or specialty, but for the most part it’s not very personal and it usually involves going to certain training courses at certain times in your career. It also may not address your needs for development at this specific time in your career. I’d like to propose an alternative you can start today to initiate yourself on a path of personal development:

1)      Make a list of the areas you believe you are strong in your field and a list of the areas you’d like to improve your skills in. The lists don’t have to be long, just as long as there is at least one item on each list

2)      Pick one of the items on your “strong” list. Mentor your subordinates or some of your peers who may need some help in this area. Teaching others is a great way to reinforce your skills. As a bonus when you help someone else out, you give value to them and bring the whole team up!

3)      Choose one of the items on your “improvement” list that you’re really interested in to focus on for the next two weeks.

4)      Do something to learn more about your “improvement” area.  Don’t go spend a lot of money on a training course or anything like that. Find a blog, download a podcast or find a book in the library.  Spend a few hours of your free time over the next two weeks exploring this topic, take some notes, write down some short term steps and long term steps you can take to grow in this area.

5)      When the two weeks is up, evaluate what you’ve learned. Are you stronger in this area than when you started? Is it an area that has stoked an interest in you to learn more? If so, make a bigger commitment to improving that area. If you think you’d rather work on something else, give that new topic a try and re-evaluate after two weeks.

Ideally your two lists and the notes you make from your two-week explorations will grow into a personal development plan, but don’t worry about getting it written down into something formal right away.  The most important thing is just to identify a few areas you’d like to develop further and take some steps today to get there.

What are the areas you would most like to see your followers develop their skills in?

Is Your Team Ready for the 21st Century?

By Hans-Werner34 [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Hans-Werner34 [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Every leader understands the importance of making sure their team has the skills they need to accomplish the goal. If the team doesn’t have the right skill sets, a good leader will find a way to get people trained so that they do.  Training can encompass a lot of things, from specialized technical skills to general interpersonal skills.  There are some more basic skills that everyone needs to have to some degree, and if you as a leader don’t make sure the members of your team have them you’ll be holding yourself back from meeting your goals.

This year The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published it’s the first “OECD Skills Outlook” and there are several themes that should get us all thinking as leaders about the types of skills our people need to be successful. The report starts by talking about how technological innovations over the last half-century have affected almost every aspect of life.  These changes have increased the demand for some skills in the workplace and reduced the demand for others. One of the many graphs presented shows that between 1960 and 2009 demand for routine manual, non-routine manual and routine cognitive skills in the workplace has dropped 5%, 7% and 10% respectively while the demand for non-routine interpersonal and non-routine analytic skills has grown by approximately 15% each.

The report states “In addition to mastering occupation-specific skills, workers in the 21st century must also have a stock of information-processing skills, including literacy, numeracy and problem solving, and “generic” skills, such as interpersonal communication, self-management, and the ability to learn, to help them weather the uncertainties of a rapidly changing labour market.”

What this tells me is that the rapidly changing technical environment impacts us as leaders to ensure that our team members are well-equipped with these skills to operate effectively, autonomously and in a timely manner as the environment changes around them.

While I believe the “generic” skills mentioned above are important, I think the Big Three of Literacy, Numeracy and Problem Solving and the ones most critical to initially evaluate your team on. I’ll provide the definitions from the report to give you a starting point:

  • “Literacy is defined as the ability to understand, evaluate, use and engage with written texts to participate in society, to achieve one’s goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential”
  • “Numeracy is defined as the ability to access, use, interpret and communicate mathematical information and ideas in order to engage in and manage the mathematical demands of a range of situations in adult life.”
  • “Problem solving in technology rich environments is defined as the ability to use digital technology, communication tools and networks to acquire and evaluate information, communicate with others and perform practical tasks.”

The report (all 466 pages of it) goes into great detail on how individual nations fare in each of these areas, the gaps between the skills required and the skills possessed and the challenges in filling these gaps. My goal today here is not to delve into those kinds of details, but just to think about if your team has the levels of these skills you believe they should have and if not, how will you as a leader find a way to grow those skills in each of your team members?

Final Thought: If your team is fully equipped with these skills, have you prepared yourself as a leader to evaluate the products and ideas they come up with?

Reference: OECD (2013), OECD Skills Outlook 2013: First Results from the Survey of Adult Skills, OECD Publishing.

http://skills.oecd.org